Thursday, November 14, 2013

Moreland Update: Co-Chairs Support Public Financing

Momentum for a statewide public financing system continues to grow: Kathleen Rice, co-chair of the Moreland Commission and Nassau County District Attorney, says she’s now in favor of public financing, as a result of what she’s learned since the Commission convened in June. The commission’s work has “made me more confident that public financing of campaigns has to be part of any meaningful campaign-finance reform,” she said. Rice has seen the danger of large donations in our political system. She said, “Infusing huge amounts of private money for public service is a recipe for disaster.” A public funding system that multiplies small donations would allow candidates to depend on the support of average New Yorkers, rather than on big donations from moneyed interests.

Rice’s endorsement comes on the heels of those of her fellow Moreland Co-Chair William Fitzpatrick and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, as highlighted in an Associated Press report yesterday. The AP piece notes that public financing supporters see it as an effective anti-corruption measure. Public financing makes elections more competitive, which keeps elected officials accountable to their constituents, and therefore less likely to assume the “untouchable” mentality that seems to precede most corruption scandals.

The Brennan Center’s advocacy for comprehensive campaign finance reform was also featured in Albany’s Legislative Gazette. The article says that public financing as a centerpiece of a broad reform package will improve enforcement of campaign finance laws, because candidates who violate the rules would not be eligible for public funds.

Latest News

Calls for Public Campaign Finance System Include a Moreland Commission Co-Chairman
Karen Dewitt reports on Moreland Co-Chair Fitzpatrick’s support for public campaign financing. Fitzpatrick’s change of heart was motivated in part by fiscal concerns. He described the potential of public financing to save the state money by reducing the ability of special interests to secure sweetheart deals from Albany. Citizen Action of New York Director Karen Scharff hopes the panel comes to the same conclusion, saying, “the Moreland Commission will be a failure unless they really do recommend systemic reform.”

Savino Pleads Guilty in Corruption Scandal
Jay Savino, the former Bronx Republican Party Chairman, pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges relating to the corruption scandal surrounding State Senator Malcolm Smith. Smith’s legal troubles are just one example of the state legislature’s corruption crisis. In less than five years, four legislative leaders have been convicted or charged with corruption, and the scandals have touched Democrats and Republicans, from upstate and down.

Editorial: Ethics Panel Must Follow the Money
The Poughkeepsie Journal calls on the Moreland Commission to probe the corrupting influence of campaign contributions in Albany. The Journal writes that the recent corruption crisis stems from the legislature: “More than 30 lawmakers have run into some kind of legal or ethical trouble over the past 12 years, and many of these cases involved the exchange of money.” The huge political donations that New York law allows raise suspicions that donors are buying access. The influence of money on Albany must be addressed by meaningful reform.
Over the next several weeks, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law will send regular updates to this list of Friends of Reform in New York State on efforts to secure comprehensive campaign finance reform centered on public financing of elections. These updates will be sent to good government advocates, allies of the Fair Elections New York campaign, legislative and opinion leaders, scholars and engaged students, reporters, and other advocates for reform. They will also be posted on the Brennan Center’s New York blog at

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