New York, NY- The Brennan Center for Justice issued the following statement today after Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed numerous ethics and election reforms - including a unitary independent ethics commission and public financing of elections -in his first State of the State speech this afternoon:
“Governor Cuomo’s proposals for political and ethics reform would begin to transform New York’s government,” said Michael Waldman, executive director of the Brennan Center. “They would begin to move New York from dysfunctional to a model for the nation. Most significantly, we cannot change Albany if we do not reform elections -- and the key is a system of voluntary small donor public funding of campaigns. This is an ambitious and much needed agenda for change. We strongly hope the legislature will work with the new Governor, and that he will continue to fight for change in the weeks ahead.”
“New York’s state government urgently needs reform, and Governor Cuomo’s ambitious agenda will begin to do just that,” said Lawrence Norden, Brennan Center senior counsel. “An independent ethics commission and public financing of elections are two big and important steps for New York to take towards having government be more open, honest and functional. We support Governor Cuomo’s agenda because it begins to put government back in the hands of the people where it belongs.”
"Public financing of campaigns is the best way to reduce the possibility and the perception of corruption associated with large contributions and unlimited campaign spending." said Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Brennan Center counsel.
Public Financing: A public funding system with small donor matching funds similar to New York City’s will dramatically reduce candidates’ dependence on special interest donors and lobbyists’ political contributions. Public funding would also begin to reduce the public’s cynicism about elected officials since the public will know they are only accountable primarily to the voters- and not to special interests and donors. With public funding, elections are not just about raising money, but more about a candidate's ability and policy positions.
Ethics: The Governor is proposing several Brennan Center suggestions, including, most significantly, a unitary ethics commission that will have jurisdiction over legislative and executive branch officials and lobbyists. Other reforms include mandatory ethics training for all state employees, improvements to the state's lax financial disclosure laws and pay to play bans.
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