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 Robert Friedman.
New York Campaign Finance and Ethics News
1. As the legislative session winds down, the chorus advocating for campaign finance reform in New York State keeps growing louder. An editorial in the Huffington Post draws on examples from other states to argue that public matching funds will increase constituent involvement and help dull the effect of a few wealthy donors and special interests. The editorial also recommends adopting a rule that would provide free and equal advertising for candidates, noting that the idea has gained support from both liberal and conservative groups.
2. Environmental groups in the midst of an ongoing fight against fracking have fully recognized that campaign finance reform for New York would provide a boost to their movement. Gas companies and their trade associations donated over $1.3 million to New York state officials and campaign committees between 2007 and 2011, and an editorial in Newsday argues that it’s no coincidence that the state budget failed to include funds for a study of the dangers of fracking. “[T]he greatest threat to our environment here in New York may be an unlikely suspect: big money.” A coalition of environmental groups have penned a letter to Governor Cuomo expressing support for the pending Fair Elections Act.
3. Lobbyists contributed over $1.8 million in campaign contributions and bundled contributions to New York legislators in 2011, reports the Times Union. The pernicious effect of these contributions is exacerbated by New York’s lack of disclosure rules. While the New York Public Interest Research Group managed to piece together scattered pieces of information to report the issue, the public should not have to wait until an annual survey is released to learn the sources of political contributions. Rather, continuous disclosure should be the norm.
National Campaign Finance and Ethics News
1. The push to give everyday Americans a bigger role in funding candidates’ campaigns had a big victory this week. The FEC approved the use of text messages to make donations of up to $50 to political committees, a move supported by Republicans and Democrats alike. “In the age of six- and seven-figure donations to super PACs, we should be doing more to encourage policies like this that enhance the role of small-dollar donors in our political process,” said Nick Nyhart of Public Campaign.
2. The scramble to raise enough funds to compete in November is driving the presidential candidates away from courting voters in swing states and towards elite fundraisers wherever money can be raised. The L.A. Times reports that President Obama is spending increasingly less time speaking with voters, attending town-hall meetings, and giving speeches in battleground states. Obama’s advisers have said that the campaigning strategy is not ideal, but is nonetheless a necessary step in adjusting to the “new reality” of money in politics.
3. The 28th Amendment? David Axelrod said that a constitutional amendment to roll back Citizens United might be in President Obama’s toolkit if he should win reelection. “I hope that one of the things we can do, when we win this election, is use whatever tools are available, up to and including a Constitutional amendment, to turn this back,” Axelrod said.