Money in Politics in New York, October 5 Edition

October 5, 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.

Public Financing Can Stem Corruption in Albany
As the public stands appalled by the shameful behavior of their representatives in Albany, Lawrence Norden, senior counsel at the Brennan Center, offers a solution to re-engage citizensin the political process in the Press and Sun Bulletin. Currently New York State’s sky-high contribution limits drown out the voice of regular voters. A recent analysis of state election funds from NYPIRG found that 127 donors gave $50,000 or more to statewide candidates and political parties over the past year, for a total of nearly $17 million. Under a Fair Elections system, candidates that abide by lower contribution limits and enhanced disclosure rules would receive public matching funds for every small donation they raise. New York City, as well as Maine and parts of Connecticut serve as thriving examples of effective public financing systems. “The cost to the public is miniscule, while the effects of a broken Albany cost taxpayers every day.” Although Governor Cuomo has publicly pledged his support for campaign finance reform, members of the New York legislature have yet to act. It is time we demand that Albany take action.

Brennan Center Hosts Panel Discussion on Campaign Finance Reform
This Tuesday, the Brennan Center hosted a panel of legal scholars, advocates and experts in the field of campaign finance reform. The panelists discussed the impact of small donor matching funds on civic participation and rejuvenating our democracy. The panelists included:

  •  Lawrence Lessig, professor of law at Harvard Law School, director of the Edmund J. Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University, and author of Republic, Lost: Money Corrupts Congress—and a Plan to Stop It;
  •  Fred Wertheimer, founder and president of Democracy 21, whom the New York Times described as “the country’s leading proponent of campaign finance reform,”and co-author of the new report Empowering Small Donors in Federal Elections, with the Brennan Center’s Adam Skaggs;
  • Richard Briffault, Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation at Columbia Law School and author of numerous publications on campaign finance reform and election law; and
  • Monica Youn, the inaugural Brennan Center Constitutional Fellow at the NYU School of Law and former director of the Brennan Center’s Money in Politics program.

Professor Lessig asserted that the “pattern of influence” of large donors in America amounts to “corruption relative to the Framer’s baseline.” He demonstrated that the Framers gave us a Republic with a branch that would be “dependent on the people alone” as Federalist52 states. “The problem is Congress has evolved … a dependence upon the funders. This is dependence too, but it is different and conflicting with dependence upon the people so long as the funders are not the people.”

Reformers Unite in Manhattan to Push for Public Financing
On Thursday Citizen Action, the Center for Working Families, Communications Workers of America, SEIU 1199, Sierra Club, NAACP and the Brennan Center, among others, gathered in Manhattan for a summit to discuss the next steps for fomenting the transition to a clean money system. Larry Norden, senior counsel at the Brennan Center lauded the benefits of campaign finance reform, presenting original research that indicates how small donor matching and public funding of elections has increased political participation and competition in New York City elections.