Dozens of leaders gathered in New York today to discuss the importance of public campaign financing to increase political participation by women, who hold less than one-quarter of the state’s legislative seats. The lunch-event came the same day a bipartisan group of 160 prominent women sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the leaders of the legislature, urging them to pass comprehensive reform this year. Cuomo also put out an ad today calling for ethics reform, including public financing.
The event was sponsored by the Brennan Center for Justice, the Committee for Economic Development, Americans for Campaign Reform, and NY LEAD.
The Brennan Center’s Wendy Weiser kicked off the discussion by talking about why Cuomo putting public financing in the budget is critical.
Wendy Weiser: for first time, governor has put #fairelex in the budget. Public financing was chief reform championed by #Moreland commission— Brennan Center (@BrennanCenter) March 3, 2014
Kathleen Rice, who co-chaired the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption and is district attorney for Nassau County, explained why the time is ripe for public financing, and how it helps level the playing field.
Kathleen Rice: it’s now or never on #fairelex.— Brennan Center (@BrennanCenter) March 3, 2014
Rice: #fairelex allows for more inclusive races. Let’s you get out & meet constituents you’re supposed to represent instead of fundraise— Brennan Center (@BrennanCenter) March 3, 2014
.@brennancenter: @KathleenRice: It’s amazing what is legal in New York politics. That’s why we need #fairelex— Citizen Action of NY (@citizenactionny) March 3, 2014
Barbara Lawton, president of Americans for Campaign Reform and former lieutenant governor of Wisconsin, spoke specifically about how public financing can help bring more women into politics.
Barbara Lawton: Race for money drives women away from politics. #fairelex— Brennan Center (@BrennanCenter) March 3, 2014
Lawton on why women need to stand together for #fairelex: Women are like the snowflakes outside. Alone we melt, together we stop traffic.— Brennan Center (@BrennanCenter) March 3, 2014
Other speakers included Julie Muraco (managing partner of Praeditis Group LLC), Maria Cilenti (legislative affairs director of the New York City Bar Association), Hazel Dukes (president of the NAACP New York State Conference), Amy Loprest (executive director of the New York City Campaign Finance Board), and Susan Rubinstein (chair of Common Cause/New York’s Board of Directors).
So what’s going to happen in New York? The budget is due April 1. Three men in a room (the governor and the leaders of each legislative chamber) usually make the decisions, noted the Brennan Center’s Lawrence Norden. With the new power-sharing agreement, that is now four men in a room who will decide whether or not public financing stays in the budget. “These leaders need to hear from all of us that it’s not acceptable for it to come out,” Norden said.
And that’s what happened after the meeting. More than two dozen women in attendance added their names to the letter sent to the governor and state legislators calling for reform, including leaders from the League of Women Voters of New York City, NYC Lean In, Citigroup, New Leaders Council, the Kohlberg Foundation, and more.