Fair Elections for New York: It’s Time for a Vote to Clean up Albany

May 1, 2013

Activists, Community Leaders to IDC: Hearings Are Only a First Step

Recent Campaign Finance Scandals Increase Urgency for Fair Elections Reforms

New York, NY – On the same day as the State Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference hearings on campaign finance reform, community leaders from across the state called on the Senate to go further by scheduling a vote to bring real change to Albany. With the recent release of Senator Klein’s own plan, the Brennan Center, with the Fair Elections for New York campaign and its supporters, declared it’s time for the next step. A broad slate of reforms have been unanimously endorsed by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and by Governor Cuomo.

Surrounded by grassroots supporters from across the state, Fair Elections for New York campaign leaders called for further action by bringing a bill to enact a system of publicly financed elections to the floor for a vote. Today’s event was the latest in a strong statewide grassroots campaign advocating for comprehensive campaign finance reform with a system of public campaign financing at its core.

“Corruption scandals have destroyed faith in Albany,” said Ian Vandewalker, counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program. “To change this culture of corruption, and restore public trust, lawmakers must make comprehensive campaign finance reform a priority. A voluntary, small donor matching program, combined with stronger enforcement, more transparency, and lower contribution limits, can change the way candidates do business, and put ordinary New Yorkers back in charge of their government.”

In his testimony before the IDC, Vandewalker urged the state to adopt a public financing system similar to New York City’s to reduce candidates’ dependence on big donors and give everyday New Yorkers more influence in the political process. He argued that reform will restore public faith in government by increasing civic participation, empowering small donors, and giving voters more candidates to choose from. Also read testimony from NY LEAD member Peter Zimroth, a partner at Arnold & Porter who served as New York City's corporation counsel from 1987 to 1989.

“New Yorkers are outraged at corruption in Albany,” said Dan Cantor, Executive Director of the Working Families Party. “The fix is cracking down on the corrupting influence of big money in politics where wealthy interests can grease the wheels to special treatment. That means public financing of elections. The moment for passage is now, and with the support of Senator Klein and the Independent Democratic Caucus, the votes for passage are there. Let’s take the public funding provision that we all agree on and bring it to the floor and get it done. What we don’t need are divisive attacks on the rights of minor parties.”

“New Yorkers know that reforming the pay-to-play system in a way that lifts up the voices of everyday people is the best answer to the corruption scandals of the past months and years,” said David Donnelly, Executive Director of the Public Campaign Action Fund. “Winning comprehensive reform, with small donor public financing at its core, will take action, not just rhetoric. Elected officials will be held accountable by what they pass not what they propose.”

“We are at what can be a transformational moment in New York State,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause New York. “One too many corruption scandals have finally tipped the scales of decency, and the voters are crying out for campaign finance reform built around a system of public matching funds. The Fair Elections package we support allows average people to compete against big dollar donors and hold their elected officials accountable. It is up to the leadership in the Senate to work with the Governor and Assembly to restore the public's faith in our democracy by bringing a full package of reforms, including public financing to a vote now. We are confidant that, working together, they are up to the challenge.”

“There's only one way to really change Albany and end corruption: comprehensive campaign finance reform with public financing of elections at the core,” said Jesse Laymon, Campaigns Manager, Citizen Action of New York. “New Yorkers are smart enough to know that restoring our democratic integrity will take action, not just rhetoric; votes, not just hearings; new laws, not just new proposals. It's time for a publicly financed elections system to be signed into law, this session.”

For more information about the Fair Elections campaign, please visit www.fairelectionsny.org.