NY LEAD Calls for Campaign Finance Reform For NYS to Restore Fairness in Elections

NY LEAD Calls for Campaign Finance Reform For NYS to Restore Fairness in Elections

Bi-Partisan Group of Business & Political Leaders to Advocate for Real Election Reform

NY Lead Calls for Small Donor Campaign Finance System for New York Stat

Contact: Morgan Hook, 301-801-6949, mhook@skdknick.com

A bipartisan group of business, civic, and philanthropic leaders have joined to advocate for comprehensive reform to the way New York’s elections are funded in order to restore fairness and integrity to the Empire State’s political process. New York Leadership for Accountable Government (NY LEAD) is endorsing Governor Andrew Cuomo’s call for campaign finance reform, as outlined in his January State of the State address, and is calling for a system of public financing for New York State elections as the centerpiece of that overhaul.

NY LEAD will work to increase support for public financing and other critical campaign finance reforms for New York State in 2012. Public financing will put the needs of real voters — the business owners and workers who drive New York’s economy — back on the agenda. It will also restore participation in the electoral process, where New York currently ranks 48th out of 50 states in voter turnout.

NY LEAD is calling for the Legislature to pass a bill that will include:

  • A voluntary “multiple match” public financing system – modeled on New York City’s successful program – that will encourage candidates to fund their campaigns through a broad base of small donors;
  • Lower contribution limits and closed contribution loopholes;
  • Even lower contribution limits for corporations and individuals who do business with New York, and;
  • A new enforcement unit in the State Board of Elections with the independence and authority to investigate alleged violations.

NY LEAD brings together voices to reform efforts from all corners of the state. A full list of membership can be found here. NY LEAD also announced today that they have launched a full social media campaign to compliment grassroots efforts in New York. Outreach includes a new website (nylead.org), Twitter handle @NY_LEAD and Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/NewYorkLead

NY LEAD members believe that New York State government should work for the public interest: the needs of our residents, businesses and economy.  Public financing allows lawmakers to focus on creating jobs and wisely managing the state budget – rather than the demands of a handful of big donors and entrenched special interests.  Enacting public campaign financing, as part of a comprehensive package of campaign finance reforms, will restore integrity to the legislative process.   Furthermore, it will end the wasteful “arms race” that forces so many businesses and business owners to siphon more and more money into politics.

New York State’s current “pay to play” electoral process is stagnant and the lack of competition in most races has led to complacency and corruption. In recent years, a steady stream of scandals has further underscored that New York State has among the country’s weakest campaign laws.

The following members of NY LEAD offered statements of support:

Sean Eldridge, President, Hudson River Ventures

“New Yorkers are fed up with our current campaign finance system that fuels cronyism and wastes taxpayer dollars on special interest projects. Voters overwhelmingly support campaign finance reform that gives them a voice and a seat at the table, not just the wealthy and the well-connected. Governor Cuomo’s proposed reforms would grow trust in state government and encourage more New Yorkers to participate in the political process.”

Scott Murphy, businessman and former Congressman from NY-20

“One of Governor Cuomo’s first acts was to literally open the Capitol to everyday New Yorkers, removing physical barriers that prevented entry for years. Removing the barriers to fair elections will be far more difficult, but the benefits will be profound for our State. Not only will individuals be more engaged in the political process, but business will be reinvigorated by knowing that in New York there is a functional representative government that serves the wishes of the people and not the special interests.”

Sherwood Boehlert, former Congressman from New York’s 23rd district

“Public funding of elections is the key reform needed to create a ‘New Albany.’ It would ensure that any candidate who forgoes large donations from wealthy individuals and special interests would have enough financial resources to run a competitive campaign. It would help return the rightful control of the political process to citizens, and act as a force to re-balance the relationship between legislator and those who put them in office.  Lawmakers would be allowed to focus on what they came to Albany to do — serve the broad public interest and make decisions that are in the best interest of the people of New York, not the connected few.”

Amory Houghton, former Congressman from NY-29 and Advisory Committee Member, Americans for Campaign Reform

“As so many of us feel, I am troubled by the role that private money has come to play in both Congress and Albany. This not need be the case.  For the first time in decades, an overhaul of New York’s campaign finance system has a real possibility of success.  I am confident that New York State would reap fiscal rewards similar to those seen in other states when wealthy and special interest donors are no longer able to fund the campaigns of elected officials who make the very laws under which these donors operate.”

Dr. Hazel N. Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference and a member of the NAACP National Board of Directors

“Campaign finance reform is a critical issue for all New Yorkers.  Too often, the voices of ordinary citizens are drowned out by moneyed special interests.  Public funding of elections will give new candidates a meaningful chance to compete, and will empower communities of color both as voters and as constituents. Now is the time for this vital reform.”

Jane Sherburne, Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Bank of New York Mellon

“I know from personal experience that the vast majority of elected officials serve the public for the right reasons. Many of them work extraordinarily long hours and do the best job that they can. But that does not change that fact that our current system permits campaign financing practices that distort the political process. This effort is about achieving reforms that ensure that the interests of our elected leaders are aligned with the people they represent.”

Charlie Kolb, President of the Committee for Economic Development, and a former official in both the Reagan and Bush administrations

“In 2010, despite the anti-incumbent wave that was sweeping the nation, here in New York State, the overwhelming majority of incumbents were re-elected to office.  More than 18 percent did not even have an opponent.   No matter what your party affiliation might be, it’s clear that we need competitive elections to make sure government leaders are held accountable. Campaign finance reform is an integral part to reforming our broken system.”

Michael Waldman, Executive Director of the Brennan Center for Justice, which helped organize NY LEAD

“This is a significant step for campaign finance reform in the state because it brings together new voices from various walks of life. We hope Albany hears a loud message that New Yorkers want reform.”

Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Chief Counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and Former Chair of the New York City Campaign Finance Board

“Public financing will do for New York State what it has done for New York City: lead to more competition, more small donors, more impact from small contributions, more grass roots campaigning, and more citizen participation in campaigns. All this, while simultaneously reducing the influence of big money in politics.”

Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause New York

“Campaign finance reform cuts to the quick of our democracy: maximizing the interests of the many over those of an elite few. Both public financing of elections and contribution limits help ensure that candidates can make their case to the voters without special interest money clouding the discourse.  The business leaders who have joined NY LEAD understand that.  Public policy decisions which affect our state’s economy and the economic well-being of millions of New Yorkers should be made on the basis of facts and our leader’s best objective judgments, not influenced by campaign contributions.”

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