The New York Times
February 25, 2014
Campaign finance reform is incredibly important, but, frankly, it’s not very sexy. How do you rouse a full-throated rallying cry for a system that could clean up politics by encouraging more people to run for office? It’s not a bleat against new taxes. It’s not a tale of two cities.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that New York State’s self-satisfied politicians think they don’t have to worry about cleaning up their image or their actions. Voters don’t care, they figure. We can keep shoveling in the money as usual, they assume.
In an attempt to counteract that inertia, advocates for public matching campaign funds have taken to the airwaves with a $1 million ad campaign. The ads compare Albany’s urgent need for public financing to the shabby state of the Statue of Liberty a few years ago. It is a nice analogy — the rust, the erosion that damaged her torch and crown are like the corrupt and corrosive politics that undermine voters’ faith in New York State government.
The analogy does fall apart a bit when we look at the difficulty of fixing the problem. It took four years or so to restore the statue. It would take just a day or two for Albany’s politicians to enact this crucial reform.
As the ad financed by the Public Campaign Action Fund makes clear, a reform plan is now up for discussion in Albany. It is part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest budget proposal that must be enacted by April 1.
The plan is to create a system similar to the one that has worked well for decades in New York City. It would provide $6 in public matching funds for every $1 raised by a candidate up to $175 per donor. There would be real limits on amounts each donor could give, and money to enforce these rules (although not as much as an Assembly bill would offer). Mr. Cuomo’s matching funds would start for the legislature in 2016 and other state offices in 2018.
The restored statue now shines from her perch in the New York Harbor. If only we could say the same about New York’s capital 150 or so miles to the north.