Push for Fair Elections Campaign Finance Reform Begins Across New York

Diverse Organizations Join to Execute Coordinated Campaign to Win Publicly Financed Elections for Statewide & Legislative Offices

Albany, NY – A large, diverse group of organizations joined together at the Capitol on Wednesday to announce a new campaign, called Fair Elections for New York, to win public financing of elections and other campaign finance reforms. The campaign marks an unprecedented coordinated effort of national, business, community, good government, faith, and labor to make Fair Elections the top issue during the remaining weeks of this year’s legislative session.

In recent weeks, the campaign began mobilizing grassroots support for Fair Elections in communities across New York State, holding rallies, town hall meetings, and press conferences. As legislators return to Albany this week, campaign partners will embark on a variety of tactics to push the issue, including lobbying, paid media, online organizing, research, and grassroots mobilization.

Starting today, a group of national reform groups, progressive organizations, environmental groups and faith groups are sending emails to their supporters in New York — over one million emails in total — calling on Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature to take action this on Fair Elections this session.

“This unprecedented, coordinated campaign to win Fair Elections campaign finance reform is about shifting the priorities of our government back to the best interests of the people,” said Karen Scharff, Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York. “The pieces are in place to change the driving force in elections – away from CEO campaign contributions and back to New Yorkers. We can’t wait any longer, New York needs Fair Elections now.”

Governor Cuomo announced his strong support for Fair Elections during his State of the State address and affirmed his commitment in a press conference after the budget was passed. Governor Cuomo’s Fair Elections plan, modeled on the New York City system, would build on the core of a voluntary public financing system with lower contribution limits, effective enforcement, and ending pay-to-play.

“We need public financing of elections so that regular, working people can participate in our electoral process, both as donors and candidates,” said Alison Hirsh, Political Director for 32BJ SEIU. “Public financing will renew faith in our electoral process, and strengthen our democracy.”

“Fair Elections for New York would put people back in charge of elections in New York,” said Josh Gold, political director at New York’s Hotel & Motel Trades Council. “We are proud to work as a partner in this campaign to boost small donor participation in elections, which will boost the power of our democracy. We can’t afford not to make this critical reform.”

“When regular people are shut out of elections by corporate campaign contributors, the very core of our democracy is threatened,” said Pat Purcell, Assistant to the President, UFCW Local 1500. “In the wake of so many decisions to cut programs and services that New Yorkers rely on every day, we can no longer wait to enact a system of Fair Elections campaign finance reform. With Fair Elections, hedge fund donations won’t matter as much, putting the priorities of New York’s working families front and center.”

Sean Eldridge, president of Hudson River Ventures and founding member of NY LEAD, said, “We joined NY Lead because we believe that the pieces are in place to finally put an end to a campaign finance system that favors special interests over voters. Governor Cuomo has put this issue on the agenda, all of the groups assembled here today represent enormous statewide support, and we are committed to sharing our voices and resources to make reform a reality. Only by implementing the reforms proposed by the Governor can we restore trust in our state government and encourage more New Yorkers to participate in the political process. Reform is good for democracy, it’s good for economic development, and it’s good for the future of the great state of New York.”

“Passing Fair Elections in New York would be the first significant policy reform victory in this post-Citizens United world. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature should set an example for Congress and the country and fix New York’s broken political system.” said Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Public Campaign.

“Young people throughout New York State want to believe that their government in Albany cares about them,” said Joan Mandle, Executive Director, Democracy Matters. “Fair Elections will restore their trust!”

Sheila Blanding, a member of Community Voices Heard, said “Whenever we go to Albany to ask for solutions to our problems, we are always told that there’s no money fix them. But we know that there is money – it’s just not going to us. It’s going right back to the rich and powerful, and they just happen to be the ones who donate the most to help get legislators elected. With Fair Elections, we’ll finally have the chance to get our voices heard.”

“A different kind of finance reform is needed to create a different kind of Albany. Increasing the power of small donors will increase participation, increase the voice of average citizens in the process and change how policy happens in New York State,” said Lawrence Norden, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

“For too long, candidates and parties have relied on a small group of well-organized donors for funding,” said Bill Mahoney, Research Coordinator, NYPIRG. “In order to level the playing field for ordinary citizens, New York’s campaign finance system is in need of a complete overhaul.”

“Citizens Union is pleased to see the number and multiple of new voices this year calling for campaign finance reform that includes public financing of elections. For many years, campaign finance reform was an issue championed largely by good government groups. But the pay-to-play culture that marginalizes the public interest has worsened over the years, and there is a growing sense among everyday New Yorkers that their concerns are not adequately heard,” said Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union. “The Fair Elections Campaign announced today provides a needed boost in the effort to achieve campaign finance reform, reflecting the diverse political spectrum of support which now exists for a government that is less captive to the special interests and more representative of the people.”

Barbara Bartoletti, Legislative Director for the League of Women Voters of New York State, said, “The League is optimistic that New York’s scandalously lax campaign finance laws might finally be transformed and accompanied by a public financing system that will counter the influence of big money in politics. We believe that real campaign finance reform should accompany public funding with effective enforcement, lower contribution limits, pay-to-play limitations and robust disclosure. We encourage the Legislature to pass the entire package of needed reforms this session.”

“New York legislators have a unprecedented opportunity to both improve democracy in the Empire State and provide a beacon to the nation by enacting a strong public funding of elections bill,” said Rob Werner of Americans for Campaign Reform. “Campaign finance reform is an American issue, not a partisan one.”

“The current campaign finance system forces candidates to rely on big donors who want something in return,” said Dave Palmer, Executive Director of the Center for Working Families. “Public financing and other essential reforms would lessen the influence of big money, increase the voice of average people and facilitate better policy outcomes.”

More information and resources on the campaign for Fair Elections can be found at http://fairelectionsny.org.