Open Letter to NYS Senate Independent Democratic Conference from NY LEAD Members

The People Deserve a Vote:

An Open Letter to the NYS Senate’s
Independent Democratic Conference
Regarding Fair Elections

June 10, 2013

State Senate Co-President Jeff Klein
State Senator David Carlucci
State Senator Diane Savino
State Senator David Valesky

Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247

To the Members of the Independent Democratic Conference:

This has been a strange and difficult year in New York State government. It is in your hands whether it is remembered as one of reform and renewal in the face of scandal, or just another year of business as usual in Albany.

Last year, when your conference broke away from other Senate Democrats and shifted control of the chamber, you promised to end “the type of political gamesmanship that has, in the past, overrun a healthy and functioning democracy.” Your leader, Senator Klein, said the move would allow major reforms to get passed, including “serious campaign finance reform.” He added that he was “extremely confident” that such reforms would “come to the Senate floor for a vote.”

As a bipartisan group of business and civic leaders who support comprehensive reform, including a small donor matching program, we were heartened by these promises. Governor Cuomo reserved judgment, writing that his opinion of your governing coalition “will be based on how those senators function as a leadership group and perform on the important issues for the people of the state.” He proposed a litmus test with campaign finance reform near the top. The time for this test has come.

The Governor said that your coalition will either “wind up being a facilitator of transparency and progressive politics or an enabler of more obfuscation.” With only two weeks left in the legislative session, we are concerned it may be the latter. At the very moment that passage of real campaign finance reform appears within reach — the Governor and a majority of legislators publicly support it — one of your members has said your conference would not force a bill to the floor without the support of the Senate Republicans, even though they make up a minority of the chamber. As you know, the Republican leadership in the Senate has been vocally opposed.

We understand that you introduced a comprehensive campaign finance reform bill. This was an important first step. However, introducing a bill without working to get it passed is worth little to the people of New York. It is wrong to give any conference or legislative leader the power to protect the status quo and prevent voting on an essential reform. This is particularly so during a period of record corruption, when reform has the support of a majority of officeholders and the public.

No fewer than 17 public opinion polls over the last two years show that New Yorkers across the state want the system to change. The people want a campaign finance system that works for all New Yorkers — not just special interest donors.

Governor Cuomo recently said, “The people of this state have the right to know what the position of the legislators really are.” He is right, and only a vote will do that. This is a critical moment. If you bring campaign finance reform legislation to a vote, New Yorkers will celebrate your leadership. If instead you allow reform to fail while you share control of the Senate, your coalition will be remembered for obstructing good legislation and enabling partisan gridlock above all else.

 

Sincerely,

Richard Aborn
CAAS, LLC

Gerald Benjamin
Distinguished Professor of Political Science at SUNY New Paltz

Fmr. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert
24th Congressional District, NY

Andrea Bonime-Blanc
CEO, GEC Risk Advisory LLC

Fmr. Senator Bill Bradley
Co-Chair of Americans for Campaign Reform

Michael Brune
Executive Director
Sierra Club

David L. Calone
President & CEO, Jove Equity Partners, LLC

Andrew G. Celli, Jr.
Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP

Ellen Chesler

Diana Cihak
Founder of WomenElect

Sean Coffey
Fmr. Candidate for NYS Attorney General

Richard Davis

Cynthia DiBartolo
CEO of Tigress Financial Partners
Chairperson of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce

William Donaldson
27th Chairman of the SEC

Patricia Duff
Founder of The Common Good

Hazel N. Dukes
President, NAACP New York State

Sean Eldridge
President, Hudson River Ventures

Fmr. Rep. Harold Ford, Jr.

Anne Gumowitz

Steven Haft

Christie Hefner
Fellow, Center for American Progress

Stephen Heintz
President, Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Leo Hindery
InterMedia Partners, LP

Fmr. Rep. Amory Houghton
29th Congressional District, NY

Chris Hughes
Co-Founder, Facebook

Craig Kaplan

Robert M. Kaufman
Proskauer Rose

Fmr. Senator Bob Kerrey
Co-Chair of Americans for Campaign Reform

Jerome Kohlberg
Kohlberg & Company and the Kohlberg Foundation

Daniel F. Kolb
Davis Polk & Wardwell

Dan Kramer
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison

Eric Lane
Dean, Hofstra Law School

Geraldine B. Laybourne

Peter Lehner
Executive Director, Natural Resources Defense Council

Marjorie Press Lindblom
of counsel (retired partner), Kirkland & Ellis LLP

John MacIntosh
SeaChange Capital Partners

Dennis Mehiel
Chairman and CEO of U.S. Corrugated
Chairman and CEO of Battery Park City

Danny Meyer
CEO, Union Square Hospitality Group

Judith Mogul
Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason, Anello & Bohrer, P.C.

Dan Neidich
Dune Real Estate Partners LP

Eugene Pinover
Willkie Farr & Gallagher

Philip D. Radford
Greenpeace US Executive Director

Frederic C. Rich
Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Jonathan F.P. Rose
President, Jonathan Rose Companies

Donald Rubin
Co-founder, Rubin Museum of Art

Shelley Rubin
Co-founder, Rubin Museum of Art

Susan Rubinstein

George E. Rupp
President, International Rescue Committee

Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Jr.
Brennan Center for Justice

Thomas J. Schwarz

Claire Silberman

Daniel A. Simon

Jonathan Soros
JS Capital Management, LLC

Sung-Hee Suh

Jeffrey C. Walker

Frank Weil
Chairman, Abacus & Associates

Marc N. Weiss
Founder, WebLab

John C. Wilcox
Chairman, SODALI

Kent Yalowitz
Arnold & Porter LLP

Peter L. Zimroth
Arnold & Porter LLP

Individuals have signed in their personal capacities. All affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.