Thursday, February 20, 2014

Money in Politics This Week

The Brennan Center regularly compiles 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 Syed Zaidi.

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


Good Government Groups to Cuomo and Legislative Leaders: Pass Reform Before Budget Deadline
Several good-government groups, including the New York Public Interest Research Group, Common Cause, Citizen Action, the League of Women Voters, and the Brennan Center, gathered in Albany on Tuesday to encourage state leaders to enact comprehensive campaign finance reform. Governor Cuomo has proposed numerous reforms in his budget: a system of matching small donations with public funds, lower corporate contributions limits, and $5.3 million for the state Board of Elections to enforce campaign finance and election laws. The governor, as well as Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Independent Democratic Conference Senate Co-leader Jeff Klein, have all come out in favor of public financing for election campaigns. With public financing in the budget this year, the reform groups called on the elected officials to make sure it remains in the final budget agreement between the governor and legislature.

Teachout on MSNBC: Fair Elections in New York Serves as National Model
On Tuesday, Zephyr Teachout, associate professor at the Fordham University School of Law, appeared on All In With Chris Hayes on MSNBC to discuss the problem of money in American politics. Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times joined Hayes and Teachout, to explain the intricate network of undisclosed wealthy donors seeking to influence American elections. When asked how we can solve the problem of money in politics, Teachout said, “We should respond like the great Republican Teddy Roosevelt with two different political responses. One is public funding of campaigns. And two is breaking up this consolidated power.” When informed about Tom Steyer—a retired billionaire investor who plans to spend $100 million during the 2014 elections to pressure lawmakers to act on climate change—Teachout said that his money would be better spent on addressing the root causes of our government’s failure to address climate change. She gave the example of the effort to pass public financing in New York State as one solution to target the systemic problem of money in politics.

JCOPE Rejects Applications from Groups Seeking Disclosure Exemptions
The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics rejected applications from four groups on Tuesday seeking exemptions from state disclosure rules. The commission mandates reports from lobbying organizations, but can withhold the records of contributors to the lobbying groups if the donors might suffer “harm, threats, harassment or reprisals” from public knowledge of their support to the specific entities. Applications from left-leaning organizations such as the Family Planning Advocates (FPA), the Women’s Equality Coalition (WEC), the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) as well as the right-leaning New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF) were rejected by the commission. In the summer of last year, NARAL, a pro-choice organization was granted exemption from disclosure. Two of the groups, the NYCLU and NYCF said they would consider every available option to protect their donors’ identities.

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