Friday, February 28, 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.


Moreland Commission Co-chairs: Pass Election Reforms
In a Daily News op-ed on Sunday, two of the co-chairs of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption explained why they recommended public financing as a solution to the persistent problem of pay-to-play politics in Albany. Kathleen Rice, the district attorney of Nassau County, and William Fitzpatrick, the district attorney of Onondaga County, were among a number of legal experts and district attorneys tasked with examining the state of New York’s corruption and campaign laws. What the commission uncovered was not only illegal acts, but numerous “legal activities that would shake anyone’s trust in our government.” As Rice and Fitzpatrick explained, “Unfortunately, there is nothing illegal about donating $100,000 to a politician’s reelection committee, then receiving millions in the form of a helpful tax break in a spending bill.” However this year offers a unique opportunity to end the corruption scandals in Albany, and return state government back into the hands of citizens. “Imagine how much good the government could do if our elected leaders had built-in incentives to spend more time talking to and serving their constituents rather than doing the bidding of well-connected donors?” Such a system is a real possibility—Governor Cuomo has included a holistic package of reforms recommended by the commission in his budget proposal. The only question that remains now is whether the governor and the legislature will pass it.

New York Times: Public Financing Can Clean Up Albany
This week, Eleanor Randolph, of the New York Times editorial board, endorsed Governor Cuomo’s public financing proposal to reform elections in New York. Randolph wrote that campaign finance is incredibly important, as the way elections are funded predetermines who can run for public office. Under the current system, only the wealthy or those with a vast network of well-heeled donors can compete. The reform plan, which would match small donations from constituents with public funds, has “worked well for decades in New York City.” Randolph applauded the Public Campaign Action Fund’s ad campaign pushing public financing, which analogizes the decrepit state of the Statue of Liberty with the corrosive political environment in Albany. Although the Statue of Liberty took years to repair, she notes, it “would take just a day or two for Albany’s politicians to enact this crucial reform.”

Horner: Time for Cuomo and Legislature to Take Real Action on Reform
Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, in a commentary piece for the WAMC Northeast Public Radio, demanded that Governor Cuomo and the legislature take real action on campaign finance reform. “For at least 30 years, New York governors have called for sweeping campaign finance reforms. But for all that talk, Governors Mario Cuomo, George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson achieved virtually no reforms,” he stated. Horner commended Cuomo for including reform in his budget—which forces the legislature to debate the issue. A majority of assemblymen, as well as the Senate Co-leader Jeffrey Klein have come out in favor of comprehensive reform with a voluntary public financing option. Horner concludes: “Given the tremendous institutional power of the executive, the support of the state Assembly, and the apparent support among many Senators, the fate of meaningful campaign finance reform will hinge on whether the governor can round up the necessary Senate votes.... How that plays out will be a real test for the governor.”

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