Scott Murphy, businessman and former Congressman from NY-20
As prepared for delivery
We have all seen the numbers. Public support of and confidence in our elected officials is at all time lows.
Why is that? Of course there are lots of reason, but one of them is that most Americans know that our electoral system is rigged and it’s not for them.
They see the tax code so riddled with exemptions/deductions/special tax breaks that go to benefit the connected. They see tens of millions of dollars going secretly to Super PACs to influence elections. They know those donors want access and influence in return.
Voters are frustrated and fed up.
New Yorkers show this frustration and distrust by not even bothering to show up at the polls, leaving New York 48th of the 50 states in voter turnout.
Polls show overwhelming bi-partisan public support for taking special interest money out of our elections. Right now we have an opportunity to do so because we have a Governor who’s willing to fight for it.
Last month, in his State of the State address, Governor Cuomo made an impassioned call for campaign finance reform and public funding in New York State. And we are here today to answer his call and help make his bold reforms a reality.
Our group, NY Lead is not a typical political group. It’s made up of academics and ambassadors, entrepreneurs and investors, people from huge companies and small start-ups. It shows this isn’t a partisan issue, it includes Democrats, Republicans and independents, but we all see the corrosive influence of our current campaign finance system on our government.
Under New York’s current system, individuals can contribute $60,000 to candidates in statewide elections. And unlimited contributions are allowed to political party’s so-called “Housekeeping” account. Our current campaign finance system is built for the big donor, not for the average voter.
I know first hand how much time elected officials spend building relationships with and reaching out to the special interest groups that are bringing big money to campaigns. It’s time that would be far better spent talking to constituents and working to understand the problems of all the people who aren’t part of a connected special interest group.
How would a new system work? It would bring down the limits on what individuals and groups can give. At the same time it would match small donations to make them more impactful. Candidates will shift their time from the big organized special interest groups to meeting with grassroots groups of citizens who’s $10, $50 and $100 contributions will be amplified by matching funds. As we have seen in NYC, this system will get more people involved in campaigns and incentivize candidates to broaden the group of people they are talking to.
In my experience those conversations bring new ideas to elected officials and give them a better sense of where all voters concerns are and as a result reduce the influence of the special interests.
In addition, campaign finance reform will allow a whole new group of potential candidates the opportunity to run competitively. The current system is heavily weighted to incumbents and people who know enough wealthy people to be able to raise the enormous amounts of money required to be competitive. Having a small dollar match will allow other candidates to raise enough money to compete from small dollar donors.
This past Sunday I watched the Grammys and witnessed an amazing site as a 23 year old woman no one had heard of a couple years ago, swept up six awards for her powerful, beautiful singing. Adele didn’t come from the elite and she doesn’t fit the typical profile of a pop star, but she does have a truly special voice. Adele was found on YouTube and the rest is history. To me, her story is a perfect parallel for what we want to do with Campaign Finance Reform. We want to open up the system so that non-traditional candidates have a chance to make their voice heard and to bring their special talents to the political world. If we open the door here in New York for new candidates to make their voices heard, I’m confident we will find the political equivalent of the next Adele, and that will make New York a better place for all of us.