Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Justice Brennan Might Praise this Melting Pot as Well

Like the Constitution, the Guinness Book of World Records is a living, breathing document...

As many people do with items that interest them, we have set up Google Alerts to let us know when the Brennan Center is mentioned in news articles. And from time to time, we get e-mails about things that come up in a search that have nothing to do with the Brennan Center.

We think today's mistaken hit takes the cake. Or rather, the bread dipped in cheese.

Chef Terrance Brennan was in Rockefeller Center this morning with the Today Show crew creating, you guessed it (or not), the largest ever fondue. The fondue weighed in at 2,100 pounds, qualifying it for the Guinness World Record.

And here's a photo of Al Roker sampling the humungous vat of cheese.

Buzz from New York Heard on the Bayou

The Bayou Buzz, coming at you from way down in Louisiana, reminded us that the first part of Governor Spitzer’s Executive Order 3 is coming into effect tomorrow.

Executive Order 3 stipulates that by March 1st all agencies and public authorities have to submit to the Governor a list of all of their meetings that are covered under the Open Meetings Law. Along with the list, they must come up with a plan for making broadcasts of those meetings available on the internet. Unless an exemption is granted, all meetings are required to be broadcast on the internet by July 1st.

Finally, to add a little accountability to the mix (rare for Albany, we know), the agencies and authorities will have to submit records by December 31st of the meetings they broadcast and include any public comments and any recommendations for improvement to the program.

We’ll definitely keep our eyes peeled for movement on this. Get it right, and maybe we’ll be the envy of the whole country, not just Louisiana.

A new era of ethical conduct in the Comptroller's Office?

We are pleased to hear, via the New York Post, that Tom DiNapoli is instituting new ethics rules in the Comptroller's office. According to the Post:
DiNapoli's order bans his employees from making personal use of state phones and computers except under narrowly defined circumstances, bars the acceptance of gifts or gratuities, and prevents employees from making campaign contributions to his campaign committee.
Of course, these are positive steps from an office that has recently experienced scandal; we hope that all government offices take a lesson and implement stronger ethics rules.

Check out our report on ethics in New York and our model ethics bill.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Hooray for...Albany?

The lights in Hollywood shine a little bit brighter on Oscar night, but who knew how much light they would cast on New York? Notwithstanding NY native Martin Scorcese’s victories for Best Picture and Best Director, several parallels can be drawn between the Academy Awards and New York’s political process. The state legislature, like the Academy, has voting practices viewed by outsiders as mysterious, if not secretive. Reform efforts have been ushered stage-right like an Oscar winner who’s thanked a few too many people in a rambling speech. And the incumbency advantage of elected officials combined with their control of redistricting ensures that, like the awards show, that though the outfits change in the legislature, the people wearing them rarely do.

Eileen Markey’s article in City Limits alludes to another parallel. The majority of our state's prisoners come from downstate (New York City), but virtually all the state's prisons are upstate. More importantly, those prisoners are counted as "residents" of upstate towns in the decennial census, but they are unable to vote. Thus, for the purposes of reapportionment and redistricting in NY, prisoners are like seat fillers at the Oscars: they give districts the appearance of being full, but they have absolutely no clout.

This practice has meaningful economic and political consequences. The resources diverted to districts upstate do little to aid prisoners, while the actual residents get a disproportionately large slice of the pie. In turn, less money is directed to downstate districts that already lack resources and support returning prisoners upon their release. Politically, this method has favored Republicans, who are heavily concentrated upstate. By allocating prisoners up north, redistricters respecting one-person/one-vote doctrine must create more districts upstate; these puffed-up districts have tended to elect GOP candidates.

There are simple ways to change New York’s method of counting prisoners. Some states simply do not count prisoners when redistricting. Others, including Sen. Eric Schneiderman have proposed creating a database with the last known addresses of prisoners, and counting them there. Either proposal would bring more fairness to the system and help end the current practice in NY which heaps insult onto injury: not only are prisoners being used for partisan gain, but their home districts suffer as well. Or, put another way, not only are they little more than nominees with no chance at a statue, they're left without the coveted swag too.

Monday, February 26, 2007

More thoughts on Lopez Torres

From today’s Daily News:
New York's notoriously rigged, boss-driven system for electing judges must go.

From today’s Legislative Gazette:
“Whoever the delegates appoint as the Supreme Court candidates is who will run in November,” said Chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, Sen. John DeFrancisco, R,I,C,WF-Syracuse. He said the process is unconstitutional because it prevents anyone but the convention-nominated candidate from running.

From Saturday’s Times Union:
It's difficult to fathom how the high court could fault Judge Gleeson's logic, or the patent disenfranchisement of New York voters by party leaders.

The Brennan Center represents the plaintiffs in Lopez Torres v. New York State Board of Elections, and you can check out opinions and court filings on our website.

More News on Campaign Finance

Over the weekend, the New York Times ran a story on one of the many open secrets relating to New York's atrociously weak campaign finance laws: even after they have retired, politicians legally use campaign finance funds for personal matters (and what under any reasonable, non-legal interpretation would have to be termed "personal use.") Key quote:

New York’s campaign finance laws have been widely criticized by public interest groups as being riddled with loopholes that permit excessive contributions from special interests and inappropriate expenses by candidates. Over the years, the Board of Elections has lent its approval to candidates who wanted to spend money on car payments and repairs, baby-sitting expenses and luxury gifts, provided such expenses were somehow connected to political activities.

And what were the expenses "connected" to political activities incurred by these retired politicians? Dinners, wine, salaries to spouses, cell phone bills and car payments, among other things.

In other, somewhat related news, Capitol Confidential reports that five junior Assemblymembers -- Hakeem Jeffries and Karim Camara, of Brooklyn; Michele Titus, of Queens; Linda Rosenthal and Brian Kavanagh, of Manhattan -- have agreed to some self-imposed campaign finance restrictions:

The five will voluntarily restrict fundraising activities in the Albany area while the Legislaure is in session, prohibit contributions from employees of organizations that receive member items, ban the receipt of “soft money” cash and decline donations from Assembly employees.

It's a good start. Might we also suggest a restriction on the kind of personal use of campaign finance funds detailed in the New York Times on Saturday, which has also left the public deeply cynical about whose interest politicians in New York are really looking out for? And while we're at it, whither the other 145 members of the Assembly (or 62 members of the Senate)?

Friday, February 23, 2007

An Excellent Choice for Project Sunlight

From the Times Union's Capitol Confidential, we learn that Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has selected Blair Horner of NYPIRG to head up his "Project Sunlight," which the Times Union describes as "a comprehensive Internet database for public information on elected officials, lobbyists, special interests, state contracts, political donors and the links between them. "

We at the Brennan Center cannot hide our disappointment at losing a crucial ally in our work to reform New York from the "outside". But given his accomplishments at NYPIRG, we have little doubt that within months New York will have one of the best campaign finance databases in the country. And that will certainly represent an important step for reform in New York.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Newsday: We still need reform of judicial elections

This morning’s Newsday has a great editorial explaining the undemocratic nature of New York’s judicial conventions and encouraging state officials to support reform of the system no matter what happens in the U.S. Supreme Court this fall.

Here’s a peek:
So despite the trappings of elections, party bosses control the process from top to bottom. They effectively choose the largely anonymous delegates, who are rubber stamped by voters. The delegates then rubber stamp the bosses' preferred candidates, ensuring them a place on the ballot. And in jurisdictions dominated by one party, those candidates often run unopposed.

That's tantamount to appointment, but by unelected, unaccountable party bosses.

If New York wants to continue electing State Supreme Court justices, officials should provide some realistic route onto the ballot for qualified candidates not favored by a political party. Albany should make sure that happens, regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately rules.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


(Second in a three part series)

On Friday, we posted an explanation of the recall process in response to a letter to the editor in the Times Union. Since recall is often thought of as part of the “Initiative-Referendum-Recall” triumvirate, we thought we’d shed a little more light on the rest of the Progressive Era gang.

The definition of the term "initiative" in the government context has a lot to do with its common definition: citizens take the initiative to collect signatures in support of forcing a vote on a law or constitutional amendment. Direct initiative measures are voted on directly by the voters, while indirect initiative measures are sent to the legislature and only submitted to the voters if the legislature fails to act. Twenty four states have initiative procedures.

As the National Conference of State Legislatures notes, the constraints on initiatives differ from state to state. Most states require review of the proposed petition before it is circulated for signing. Also, most states limit each initiative to one question or issue.

One interesting take on the initiative is a law that was considered (but ultimately died) in the New Jersey Legislature. A concurrent resolution in the 2001-02 legislative session sought to gives citizens a sort of limited initiative power: they would be allowed to put questions before the people that had to do with government reform. As we wrote in an analysis of this proposal, "The New Jersey model would empower citizens with the right of direct legislation in policy arenas of great importance to the public, while keeping some of the perceived excesses of the initiative process in check."

Certainly an interesting idea for New York.

Check out this nifty slide show about initiative (and our next topic, referendum).

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Cert Granted in Lopez Torres

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari in the Lopez Torres litigation that lawyers from the Brennan Center argued, along with pro bono counsel Arnold & Porter and Jenner & Block. This means that the Court will hear the case.

Senior counsel for the Brennan Center Fritz Schwarz had this to say:
Two federal courts, including a unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, have said that New York’s corrupt conventions violate the First Amendment. New York’s Constitution is clear in its requirement that voters – not unelected political party bosses – select nominees for the Supreme Court bench. We look forward to the Supreme Court hearing on this case, and hope that the Court will uphold the lower court rulings and end forever New York’s sham party boss system.
In August, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s ruling that the convention system used by political parties in New York to select judicial nominees deprives New Yorkers of their right to cast a meaningful vote for trial court judges.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Five More Chances To Push Reform?

As the Albany Project notes there are potentially five special elections coming up in the Assembly in May of this year:

AD16: Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli (D) was just chosen by his colleagues to become the next state comptroller in the wake of Alan Hevesi's resignation.

AD61: Sadly, John Lavelle (D) passed away last month. He was only 57.

AD62: Vincent Ignizio (R) is running in a special election for New York City Council. If he wins, a special election will be necessary in this district. Notably, Ignizio is the only Republican Assemblymember in the city.

AD65: Spitzer has tapped Alexander "Pete" Grannis (D) (who happens to be my Assemblyman) to run the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

AD105: Paul Tonko (D) will reportedly leave to head up the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Together, these races have the potential to represent an early-in-the-session referendum on the Legislature's performance. Will New Yorkers use these elections to remind our legislature that we are looking for far more ambitious reform than we have yet seen? We can certainly hope so.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Your questions answered: Recall

First in a three-part series

To our delight, we found an opportunity this morning to act as a sort of political “Dear Abby” for inquisitive New Yorkers. In a letter to the editor of the Times Union, Steven Flax of Albany laments the process by which the Legislature chose a new Comptroller. At the end of his letter, he asks, “Is there some way the governor and the public together can hold a recall election and vote them all out of office?”

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, recall is the process by which citizens can remove an elected official from office and replace him or her before the end of the term of office. Recall (pun definitely intended) how California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger came to office: he was chosen by California voters in a special election after the recall of former Governor Gray Davis in 2003.

To answer your question, Steven, New York is not among the eighteen states that allow the recall of elected officials. Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin (along with the District of Columbia) all have recall provisions. Sources place the number of states that allow recall elections in local jurisdictions between 29 and 36.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in 1903, Los Angeles became the first municipality to recall an official, while Michigan and Oregon, in 1908, became the first states to adopt recall provisions for state officials.

The NCSL notes, however, that the recall has been rather unsuccessful on the state level. Before the recall of Gray Davis, the governor of North Dakota in 1921 was the only governor to be ousted using this device. Similarly, only a handful of state legislators have ever been recalled.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Where New York Ranks First

The Times Union rightly rails against New York State's ever increasing maximum campaign contribution limits. Money quote:

Only in New York. Only in a state that makes an utter mockery of campaign finance laws, with the highest maximum contribution limits of any state that bothers to have them, would the high-rolling special interests and other deep-pocketed donors be further enabled while the genuinely needy get no additional help at all.

The maximum donations -- previously $50,100 for contributions made directly to candidates for statewide office, and $84,000 to political parties -- are going up.

Why? Because state law stipulates as much, as an adjustment for inflation.

Indeed, this is just one of the many troubling aspects of a campaign finance system that pretends to address the undue influence of money in politics, but is in reality a sham. It is, unfortunately, one area where we can say unequivocally that nobody does it better.

For an empirical analysis of how New York's campaign finance laws are either the worst or very close to the worst in the country in several key areas, look here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Snow Day Poll

While we're out shoveling the snow on Sixth Avenue, we thought it would be worthwhile to ask, which of the Brennan Center's New York Reform issues is most important to you?

Which New York Reform Issue Is Most Important to You?
Legislative Rules
Campaign Finance Reform
Government Ethics
Judicial Selection
Voting Rights and Voting Machines free polls

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Praise for Assembly Republicans

It has long been clear that the New York State legislature badly needs reform. Today the Assembly Republicans proposed changes to the Assembly's operating rules. Some of these proposals would significantly increase the transparency and accountability of the legislature, as well as strengthen the role of rank and file members of both parties.

In particular, the Brennan Center applauds the proposals to (1) allow prime sponsors of bills passed in the Assembly to call for conference committees and (2) provide equal funding for the operating costs and staff of member's individual offices, regardless of the member's party affiliation or seniority.

In October 2006 the Brennan Center issued Unfinished Business: New York State Legislative Reform, which noted that although the Assembly made some important positive changes to its operating rules since 2004, the Legislative process in both the Senate and Assembly remains broken. The Brennan Center called for:

(1) A strengthened committee process;
(2) Ending the stranglehold that leadership has over getting bills to the floor;
(3) Institutionalizing of Conference Committees; and
(4) Fairness in allocation of resources and staff.

The Brennan Center supports proposals that would create a more deliberative, transparent and dynamic legislative chamber. If enacted, several of today's proposals would represent important steps in that direction.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Bringing legislators and their constituents together

When we advocated for reform of the rules of the Senate and Assembly that would require representatives to actually attend committee meetings and be in their seats for floor votes, members balked. They complained that being forced to be physically present for meetings and votes would prevent them from meeting with constituents to hear their concerns.

One of our responses to this objection was that both chambers should reduce the number and size of their committees. Members would not only have more time for their constituents, but they would also have the chance to develop a depth of knowledge about committee business, instead of just skimming the surface.

An article in Saturday’s Newsday reminded us of another reform that would allow members more time to spend with their constituents: public financing of campaigns.

As Newsday writes:
Beyond reducing the influence of special interests, this system could give a real shot at election to candidates who can’t run under the current dialing-for-dollars system, and it could let incumbents spend more time with constituents, instead of begging endlessly for contributions.
We think if legislators truly want to free up time to hear from the people of New York, they should follow Governor Spitzer’s lead and support public financing.

Categories: General, Campaign Finance, Legislative Rules

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The power of incumbency

Tuesday’s State Senate election was billed as a test of Eliot Spitzer’s political strength, but the more powerful message reiterated was the power of incumbency (albeit without an incumbent present).

According to unofficial returns, Craig Johnson (D) leads Maureen O’Connell (R), 53-46%. While Long Island has long been a Republican Party stronghold, the 7th Senate district is the only district on Long Island in which Democrats outnumber Republicans. Currently, there are roughly 78,000 Democrats and about 72,000 Republicans in the district, with another 56,700 or so registered with third-parties or unaffiliated with any political party.

The precise effect of partisan and swing voters on the election is unclear, but it seems that many voters voted differently this week than they did just three months ago. Last November, Michael Balboni (who vacated his seat to become chief of Homeland Security for NY) won reelection by more than 15% of the vote. However, his victory bucked underlying voting trends in his district. His district is the most Democratic-leaning in a county that Governor Spitzer carried by a 2-to-1 margin, and Gore carried the 7th District by 20 points in 2000.

Political analysts have noted that Balboni’s seat was a personality seat, meaning his support was based less on partisanship than interpersonal factors. Mr. Balboni is hardly alone in this respect. Several downstate Republicans are currently seated in districts that tend to strongly support Democratic candidates in other elections. Indeed, the number of registered Democrats is double the number of registered Republicans in two Queens Senate districts, but both elected Republicans in 2006 (one candidate even ran unopposed!). Not surprisingly, both of these GOP Senators have tenures spanning at least three decades, and have been able to stave off defeat (and in some cases, competition) by turning their districts into “personality seats”.

In short, incumbency matters a great deal, and the advantage incumbency affords make it difficult to determine the partisan leanings or competitiveness in a district. And so it's interesting to see what happens when a seat appearing to be a partisan lock (due to incumbency) becomes open: a close race between two quality candidates in a district that's suddenly up for grabs.

Categories: General

Getting creative with voting in Ulster County

This could be our first time linking the Kingston Daily Freeman, which this morning ran a story about how some lawmakers are considering the implementation of mail-in voting in Ulster County.

In the wake of recent revelations about the timeline for certification of new electronic voting machines, some in Ulster County want to switch to a system similar to that in Oregon. In 1998, voters in Oregon passed an initiative that introduced postal voting — registered voters are sent a ballot 18 to 14 days before each election, which they fill out and return in a signed “secrecy envelope” via mail or drop off at any county election office or designated drop site.

The advantages of voting by include lower election administration costs and easier access to the franchise by disabled voters. One downside is the possibility of voter fraud, which could in theory be more problematic in an all-mail system than with absentee ballots.

But the biggest impediment of all to mail-in voting in Ulster County (or really anywhere in New York)? It is likely illegal and possibly unconstitutional. The state constitution only provides for absentee ballots by mail, and voting machines are required by state Election Law.

While the push for postal voting Ulster County is unlikely to succeed, we do appreciate the creativity and encourage all New Yorkers to get involved in election reform decision-making.

Categories: General, Voting

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Voting machines versus ATMs

Whenever there’s a news story about the problems we’ve experienced with electronic voting machines, someone invariably makes a comment like “I go to an ATM at least once a week, and I’ve never had one give me the wrong amount of money. So why can’t we get these electronic voting machines to work as flawlessly?”

One important part of that answer is that we haven't spent sufficient amounts of money on purchasing and maintaining our voting machines. Under HAVA, Congress authorized $3.9 billion for the purchase of electronic voting machines and the creation of statewide voter registration databases, but only a fraction of that money has actually been distributed to the states.

On the other hand, commercial banks and other entities recognize that creating properly functioning electronic networks is expensive. According to the American Bankers Association, there were almost 400,000 ATMs in the United States in 2005. Each one cost between $5,000 and $15,000, depending on its features (i.e. dispensing cash, printing statements, accepting deposits, etc.). Moreover, annual ATM maintenance costs run between $12,000 and $15,000 per machine.

It is admittedly impossible to draw a direct comparison between the costs of ATMs and voting machines for many reasons, especially since voting machines wouldn't need nearly as much maintenance as ATMs. However, it is crucial that we examine the way the private banking industry has put in place such a highly functioning network; we must be similarly willing to invest more money in creating a secure and efficient voting system.

Read the testimony of our Executive Director Michael Waldman on voting machines before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.

Categories: General, Voting

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Largest campaign price tag in history

According to this morning’s New York Times, the candidates and party committees in the campaign for the Senate 7th have spent more than $5 million during the month-long campaign, breaking New York’s record for state legislative races.

By our calculations, that shakes out to about a dollar per registered voter per day, much of which has flowed into the campaigns through the porous holes in New York's campaign finance laws. For instance, individuals contributing directly to the candidates are limited to $13,900, yet those same individuals can give over $84,000 per year to parties, which in turn can funnel that money in unlimited amounts straight to campaign coffers.

We hate to sound redundant, but isn’t it about time for meaningful campaign finance reform?

Categories: General, Campaign Finance

Monday, February 05, 2007

Nassau Commissioners: Protect voters' rights in tomorrow's election

Saturday’s New York Times reported on some disturbing developments related to tomorrow’s special State Senate selection in Nassau County. Among them was a state party chair expressing the intent to direct his poll watchers to challenge voters without identification documents. Or, in his own words:
Our poll watchers and election inspectors will challenge people to show some kind of identification as to who they are…They have a right to ask for identification to make sure you are John Smith.
Except that, actually, they don’t.

In New York, it’s simply not the case that every voter has to show an identification document before they vote on the machines. Some do, yes – but only new registrants whose information hasn’t been successfully matched against information in another government source, like the motor vehicles database. Your grandmother, who has been voting for the last 60 years, doesn’t have to suddenly pony up a passport.

Along with several prominent non-profits in New York, we are sending a letter to the Commissioners of the Nassau County Board of Elections explaining that neither poll watchers nor election inspectors have the right to force Grandma to produce a magic document that she very well might not possess. If, and only if, a poll watcher knows or suspects that she is not entitled to vote in her district – which has nothing to do with whether she has shown ID or not – the watcher can institute a challenge. And according to the law, if after answering questions put to her by the election officials, your grandmother looks the official in the eye and swears an oath that she’s eligible to vote (and acknowledging the criminal penalties for voter fraud), she can vote. Simple as that.

It’s a shame when elections take place under the cloud of threatened sweeping challenges to voters’ eligibility. Last November, when such a spectre arose in Westchester County, candidates of both major parties recognized the harm, and issued clear public statements condemning the contemplated challenges.

Let’s hope that the voters of Nassau earn at least that much respect from those who want to earn their votes.

Categories: General, Voting

In defense of publicly financed presidential campaigns

We find the editorial in this morning’s New York Sun about the presidential public financing system to be severely misguided. The Sun argues, like Senator Mitch McConnell in the New York Times several weeks ago, that the low incidence of taxpayers choosing to contribute to the program is evidence that the public believes the system should be abolished:
We have a theory as to why this is so. It's because American voters are nothing if not smart...Every taxpayer has had a chance to check this box...It's right there prominently on the tax form...The vast majority of American taxpayers just don't want anything to do with the idea of public funding of campaigns.
Ignoring for a moment the fact that many polls actually show public financing to be popular with voters across party lines, we take issue with the assumption that the unpopularity of the current system is evidence that voters are against it.

The Brennan Center commissioned a study last year to test why taxpayers do or do not check off the election fund box. It turns out that two-thirds of those polled lacked basic knowledge about the fund.

This phenomenon isn’t hard to explain. The fund was established after Watergate, which means that many taxpayers were born after its implementation. Moreover, the last major public education effort on the fund was in 1993. One of our bloggers, born in 1984, missed this education campaign because she was a third grader distracted by Clifford books and spelling bees.

The point is that taxpayers who lack familiarity with the fund are less inclined to participate. This lack of participation, though, cannot be used as evidence that people fundamentally disagree with the aim of the system.

Voters are sick of the influence of money in politics. An education campaign explaining how public financing puts political power back into the hands of ordinary voters would dramatically raise taxpayer participation.

We recognize that the current system has become outdated, but this does not mean that it should be dismantled. Indeed, public financing should be revived, revamped, and widely publicized to make it a viable alternative to today's special interest-saturated elections.

Categories: General, Campaign Finance

Friday, February 02, 2007

What we have in common with Bill Murray

We're feeling a little bit like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. In the movie, weatherman Phil Connors is sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover the ceremonial emergence of the groundhog who shares his first name. To his horror, Phil discovers that each day after that dawns not anew but as that same Groundhog Day.

For us, the nightmare is waking up every day and reading about the same people doing the same thing: New York politicians, with their nearly 100% reelection rates and few viable challengers, legally raising astronomical amounts of campaign cash that, after the election, they can use for things clearly unrelated to campaigning.

Next week we’ll get a fresh reminder of this constant fundraising; a law passed in 1995 is set to cause contribution limits, already sky-high, to escalate even further. Every four years (this is the third iteration), the limits are adjusted according to the Consumer Price Index, which has risen almost 12% since the last adjustment in 2002.

The resulting change in the New York contribution limit for individuals giving to gubernatorial candidates, shaking out to around $4,000, will actually be larger than the entire allowable contribution in 21 states.

In the words of Phil/Bill: “There is no way this winter is ever going to end as long as that groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don't see any way out of it. He's got to be stopped. And I have to stop him.”

We echo the sentiment and vow to keep pushing for more reasonable contribution limits and other critical campaign finance reform.

Categories: General, Campaign Finance

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Andrew Cuomo on "Project Sunlight"

It appears that Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s "Project Sunlight” has the potential to be just as revealing as some of the outfits on "Project Runway". The proposal, which Governor Spitzer’s budget proposes to fund, would collect and consolidate important government data on one website. The AG’s Public Integrity Bureau would use the site to reveal information about "legislative activity, campaign finance, lobbying, state contracts, and corporations."

Cuomo said in a statement yesterday:
The web site will be searchable, easy-to-use, and allow for cross-referencing of the data. Our current disclosure system is balkanized and unconnected. The state now provides scattered “dots” of information. We will connect those dots to show the full picture. In fact, not only will we bring together this disparate information – we will improve it. In so doing we will increase trust and accountability, and empower citizen activists, journalists, bloggers, and public interest groups to monitor government.
Being bloggers from a public interest group, we tip our hats to Cuomo for taking steps toward making government disclosure not only more complete but more accessible. We look forward to trying out the website as soon as it comes online!

Categories: General