Technology Leaders Endorse Effort to Overhaul Campaign Finance

Technology Leaders Endorse Effort to Overhaul Campaign Finance

The New York Times

Thomas Kaplan

November 15, 2012


A group of more than 30 technology industry leaders has endorsed an effort to overhaul the state’s campaign-finance laws, and is urging Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to push for a system of public financing for state elections.

The technology industry leaders include Dennis Crowley, a founder of Foursquare, and Kevin P. Ryan, the founder of Gilt Groupe. The effort has also won the support of the venture capitalist Fred Wilson and his partners at Union Square Ventures, which has invested in start-ups including Meetup, Etsy, Twitter, Tumblr and Zynga.

Arguing for a campaign fund-raising system that would provide public matching funds to candidates who solicit small donations from individuals, the technology leaders pointed to the success of crowd-funding platforms like Kickstarter, through which people can pool resources to support projects.

“It is time to bring this same way of doing things to campaign finance in New York State, and create a national model that will strengthen small-d democracy,” they wrote on Thursday in a letter to Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat who has said overhauling the state’s campaign-finance system is one of his top goals.

The letter to Mr. Cuomo was also signed by a founder of Meetup, Scott Heiferman; the scholars Yochai Benkler, Lawrence Lessig and Clay Shirky; and the founder of the Personal Democracy Forum, Andrew Rasiej, who is the chairman of the New York Tech Meetup.

Mr. Rasiej, who ran unsuccessfully for New York City public advocate in 2005, said as technology leaders sought to advance their policy agenda in areas like privacy rights, broadband access and immigration reform, they were growing concerned that the political system in New York State and across the country had been “severely compromised by the influence of money.”

“It’s pretty obvious that the governor is presenting himself to the public as a reformer and as an innovator, and we as innovators believe that innovation doesn’t just stop at the computer terminal, it should continue on in our political system,” Mr. Rasiej said in an interview. “If the governor wants to be an innovator, the way to do it is not just by talking about it, but by actually doing it, and we think that comprehensive campaign-finance reform in New York State would be a validating step by the governor to show his innovation credibility.”

Advocates of public financing for state elections had hoped that Mr. Cuomo might be able to reach a deal with lawmakers in a lame-duck legislative session before the end of the year. But Hurricane Sandy and the continued uncertainty about which party will control the State Senate next year have combined to make such a session less likely, according to lawmakers. The next regularly scheduled session of the Legislature is to begin in January.

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