New Business Leaders Join Coalition for Campaign Finance Reform

New biz join push for campaign finance reform

Crain’s New York Business

Andrew J. Hawkins 

April 10, 2013

An advocacy group pushing for public financing of state campaigns added several boldfaced names from the private sector to its roster this week.

The group, New York Leadership for Accountable Government, or NY LEAD, was started by media mogul Barry Diller and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes last year to advocate for publicly financed campaigns as a way to stem the impact of large-dollar donations on state politics. On Thursday, the group will announce several prominent additions to its membership of business and civic leaders.

Among those joining the group are Dennis Mehiel, chairman and CEO of U.S. Corrugated and Battery Park City; Donald and Shelley Rubin, co-founders of the Rubin Museum of Art; Michael Solender, general counsel at Ernst & Young; and Delroy Warmington, managing partner of Delwar Capital Management. Gerald Benjamin, a political science professor at SUNY New Paltz and a leading commentator of Albany politics, and Cynthia DiBartolo, CEO of Tigress Financial Partners and chairwoman of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, are also joining.

Current members, as well as the Brennan Center for Justice, are actively recruiting new members.

In a statement, Mr. Mehiel, who ran for lieutenant governor in 2002, said it was “an honor” to join NY LEAD.

“We must end the wasteful political arms race that forces so many businesses and business owners to siphon more and more money into election campaigns,” he said. “A system of small-donor matching funds is a good answer. It will encourage business growth, help constituents hold candidates and officeholders accountable, and ensure fair legislation in Albany.”

In the aftermath of several corruption-related arrests of state officials, the group says it is hoping to enact a statewide public matching system akin to New York City’s. And with Gov. Andrew Cuomo in support of the proposal, the hope is to build up enough support in the business community to convince Senate Republicans who oppose the use of taxpayer money to fund political campaigns.

At a news conference Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he would push for publicly financed campaigns, but did not include that proposal among a package of legislation he said he would introduce to address the latest corruption scandals.

The group, which the New York Times called “unusual and well-heeled”when it emerged last year, also includes investment bankers, restaurateur Danny Meyer and philanthropist David Rockefeller Sr.

The state Conservative Party reasserted its opposition to publicly-financed campaigns this week, saying they contribute to corruption and have not been demonstrated to have any benefit.

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that unions and advocacy group MoveOn.org were affiliated with NY LEAD, which was also reported in an April 2012 New York Times article on the group. Those organizations are not a part of NY LEAD.

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