Money in Politics in NY: July 20 Edition

July 20, 2012

Reposted with permission from The Brennan Center. Money in Politics is a series which regularly compiles the latest news concerning the corrosive nature of money in New York State politics — and the ongoing need for public financing and robust campaign finance reform.

1. Last week, Governor Cuomo reestablished campaign finance reform as a priority for the next legislative session. A Newsday editorial calls on Governor Cuomo to stay the course. Meanwhile, reform advocates Sundeep Iyer and Michael J. Malbin write in a Journal News editorial that adopting a matching funds system statewide modeled on  New York City’s example can help lead to greater equality and diversity of political participation.   New York City’s public matching funds allow candidates to receive a 6-to-1 match for the first $ 175 a city resident contributes, turning a $ 100 contribution into $ 700 for the candidate. Iyer and Malbin’s research shows that the incentives public matching funds give to candidates to reach out to their own constituents—rather than focus exclusively on wealthy donors—are working. Nearly 90 percent of NYC census block groups were home to small donors who contributed to City Council candidates, while only 30 percent of NYC census block groups were home to small donors who gave to state Assembly candidates. In addition, small donors in NYC’s predominantly minority neighborhoods were far more likely to donate to City elections, where a public match was available, than to State elections. For instance, 24 times more small donors from Bedford-Stuyvesant, a poor and predominantly African-American neighborhood,  contributed to City Council races than to State Assembly ones.

2. Congressional Representative Michael Grimm was recently cleared of accusations that he illegally accepted cash contributions from non-US citizens by the independent watchdog, the Office of Congressional Ethics. However the FBI is still investigating whether he embezzled millions of dollars worth of donations from New York Rabbi, Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, and his congregation.