Friday, January 20, 2012

Money and Politics This Week

Every Friday, the Brennan Center will be compiling the latest news concerning the corrosive nature of money in New York State politics—and the ongoing need for public financing and robust campaign finance reform. We’ll also be linking to dispatches from around the country highlighting the national scope of this crisis. This week’s links were contributed by Matthew Ladd.

For more stories on an ongoing basis, follow the Twitter hashtag #moNeYpolitics

NY Campaign Finance News

1. Gov. Cuomo renewed his support for public campaign financing in New York in his recent State of the State address, calling on the legislature to send him a comprehensive campaign finance reform bill that includes public financing for state and legislative elections. The official text of Gov. Cuomo’s State of the State address can be found here.

2. As Nick Nyhart writes in the Huffington Post, New Yorkers support the public financing of campaigns by wide margin. A new poll conducted by the Siena Research Institute shows overwhelming support for public financing and lower contribution limits: a full 74% of those polled are in favor of public financing of state elections. Siena’s press release highlights campaign finance reform as one of the three proposals in the governor’s address that garnered the most support. The full results can be downloaded here.

3. The Lower Hudson Journal News has joined the latest call for campaign finance reform in New York, mentioning Gov. Cuomo’s backing of public financing of elections in his State of the State, and quoting a election official on the notorious laxity of the state’s campaign finance regime: “Unless you out-and-out stick it in your pocket and walk away, everything’s legal.” The editorial also cites a long litany of former elected officials who have dipped into their campaign accounts—often to pay attorneys hired to handle their legal troubles—for years after they stopped running for public office.

4. The Utica Observer-Dispatch issued a similar editorial on Wednesday, praising Gov. Cuomo for his remarks on public financing in his State of the State, and citing the Campaign Finance Institute on the many incentives that voluntary public financing creates for small donors.

5. NBC New York singled out Gov. Cuomo’s call for public campaign financing as a key point in his address, noting that 24 states already have some form of public financing for elections, that only a fraction of New York’s 19 million residents currently contribute to campaigns, and that campaign finance reform has been a crucial issue since the Pataki era.

6. Likewise, NPR’s New York affiliate reported on a new study by the Campaign Finance Institute, which found that New York is “dead last” in terms of political donations by the public—less than one half of one percent of the state’s population makes campaign contributions for state or legislative elections. Gov. Cuomo’s State of the State address cited the CFI’s research, which is available on the CFI website.

7. Union leaders have rallied around Gov. Cuomo’s promise to back public campaign financing, issuing a joint letter on behalf of the UAW (United Auto Workers), CWA (Communication Workers of America), and SEIU (Service Employees International Union) to express their support. “To have a truly just and equal society, we must have elections that reflect the will of the people, not the privilege of the wealthy few,” the letter states in part. “We need public funding of elections to achieve this goal.”

National Campaign Finance News

8. Citizens United is “the worst campaign finance decision in Supreme Court history,” according to an op-ed by Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 in Politico, in large part because it has unleashed an unprecedented wave of special-interest spending through the creation of super PACs. The op-ed emphasizes the need for a small-donor matching funds system that puts ordinary citizens at the forefront of campaign fundraising, among other legislative remedies such as better disclosure laws, a prohibition on candidate-specific super PACs, and the creation of a stronger enforcement agency to replace the failed FEC.

9. Mitt Romney’s repeated endorsement of Florida’s “Full Sail University,” a for-profit college whose curriculum includes an $80,000 program in “video game art,” has raised some eyebrows after revelations that Full Sail’s chief executive, Bill Heavener, is a major donor to Romney’s campaign as well as the super PAC run by Romney’s former aides. The New York Times also recounts how “Winning the Future,” the super PAC that shores up Newt Gingrich’s campaign, recently received a $5 million lifeline from billionaire casino owner and longtime Gingrich supporter Sheldon Adelson.

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