Friday, August 22, 2014

Money in New York Politics

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. This week’s links were contributed by Eric Petry.

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


The Real Moreland Takeaway
SUNY New Paltz dean and state government expert Gerald Benjamin and former New York City corporation counsel Fritz Schwarz wrote an op-ed in the Daily News this week to emphasize the need for public financing at the state level. The attention surrounding Governor Cuomo’s handling of the Moreland Commission is “an easy distraction,” they write, that “takes our attention off of where it should really be focused…the commission’s crucial recommendations for campaign finance.” When adopted, they argue, these reforms will curb the corrosive power of big money in Albany and strengthen the influence of average voters. Schwarz and Benjamin also wrote a letter, which is joined by more than 20 other prominent New Yorkers, urging candidates for the New York State legislature to make public financing a top priority next year. 

New City Law Requires More Disclosure for Campaign Spending
The New York City Council unanimously approved a new campaign spending disclosure law this week. Under the new law, any independent expenditure group that spends in excess of $5,000 will be required to list their top three donors on any literature or advertisements they distribute to voters. They would also have to provide additional disclosure information that would be available publicly on the New York Campaign Finance Board’s website. Councilman Brad Lander, the bill’s primary sponsor, has repeatedly called out groups that do not disclosure their donors and argues that this law will “enable voters to see who’s behind the ads they’re getting.” After the bill passed easily through the City Council, a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio said he will not hesitate to sign it into law.

Appellate Court Denies Cuomo’s Teachout Challenge
In a unanimous vote, a New York state appellate court rejected the residency challenge against Zephyr Teachout’s campaign, affirming the lower court’s decision. The appellate court ruled that the burden fell on the challengers to provide “clear and convincing evidence” that Teachout does not to meet the residency requirements – a burden that they failed to meet. Following the decision, Teachout renewed her calls for a debate against Governor Cuomo, saying “we have very different visions for where we want to take the state…Democratic voters deserve a choice.” Time Warner Cable News has already agreed to host a debate between Cuomo and Teachout. When questioned whether he would agree to participate, however, the Governor said that he will “leave that to the campaigns to work out.” 

N.Y. poll: Government Corruption a Problem
Another poll was released this week showing that 83 percent New Yorkers view corruption as a serious problem in the state government. Although Cuomo is still the heavy favorite to win reelection this fall, 48 percent of New York voters now see him as part of the problem compared to 41 percent who see him as part of the solution. The latest poll by Quinnipiac University is the third such survey conducted since news of Governor Cuomo’s handling of the Moreland Commission emerged earlier this summer. The results indicate that New Yorkers have become increasingly aware of the Moreland Commission, and nearly half of the respondents in the new poll said that they were in favor of the ongoing federal prosecutions as a way to finish what the commission started. 

New Yorker’s Deep Dive into Campaign Finance and Corruption
This week, the New Yorker published an examination of the corrupting influence of money in politics. While the piece provides an interesting historical perspective of money in politics nationally, it focuses particular attention on the Empire State, which it calls “corruption’s proving ground.” The piece also highlights the anti-corruption research and advocacy conducted by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout, calling her campaign less of a campaign for office and more of a campaign for reform.

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