State-level political corruption gets a lot less attention than Washington corruption. But what happens in Albany can have a major effect on our lives, in terms of how much money gets spent on schools and social services vs. “incentives” for corporations, for example. With the recent spectacle of both our State Assembly and State Senate leaders landing in jail for spectacular corruption at almost the same moment, it seemed like the only way to go was up.
For this reason, we were excited when the State Legislature took up the question of statewide public campaign finance in their last session, with the best chance in years to get something passed. We believe that getting big money out of politics is key to making elected officials attend to the people’s priorities before their own personal gain. 78% of New Yorkers supported the idea in a March poll.
That excitement has turned to anger and disappointment, as an unelected panel of commissioners, put in place after the legislature reached an impasse on the issue last spring, released their plan to implement statewide public campaign finance.
Corruption was evident from the commission’s very inception. Now, the plan they have released has major flaws that hobble our progress toward clean elections and clean government. These flaws include:
- Limiting matching funds to small contributions raised in-district only.While it may sound logical, the reality is that poorer districts will have less opportunity to elect candidates who aren’t corrupted by big money.
- Failing to sufficiently limit total individual campaign contributions. At $70,000 per gubernatorial candidate, we have the highest limits in America of states that have limits (eleven do not). By contrast, individuals are limited to just $5,600 for Presidential candidates per cycle. Furthermore, only a couple of states have limits above $10,000 – most are only a few thousand dollars. $18,000, the new proposed limit, is still far too high.
- Slipping in the completely irrelevant issue of fusion voting. Third parties can provide a much-needed alternative to Democrats and Republicans, but the Commission seemed set on making it hard for the Green, Libertarian, and Working Families parties to get on the ballot. From now on, to have a ballot line, third parties will need to receive 130,000 votes every two years, or 2% of the total votes for governor or president in the last election cycle, whichever is more. This would kneecap almost every single minor party in New York state.
This is a national embarrassment. Whereas other states have used their corruption scandals as opportunities to reform, New York state has used its corruption scandals as an opportunity for bad policy. We call on New Yorkers to demand that their state legislators return to Albany to take a vote to improve the proposed system.
Originally posted at RepresentUs NYC. Re-posted with permission.
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