Money in Politics in NY: Jan. 31 Edition

Senator Warren Prods New York to Pass Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform

Last week, at St. Peter’s Church in New York City, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman gave rousing speeches touching on campaign finance reform. Senator Warren explained the connection between the country’s broken campaign finance laws and growing income inequality. “We’ve got a government that works all too well for the rich and the powerful, and all too little for everyone else,” Warren said. She insisted that campaign finance reform should be a top priority for New York State. “Your governor has said, ‘Let’s attack money in politics head-on. Let’s go for campaign finance reform,’” Warren stated. “All I can say is go, go, go, GO!” Attorney General Schneiderman praised Governor Andrew Cuomo for including a public financing proposal in the budget. “The fact that the [public campaign finance] coalition was powerful enough to get the language included in the budget was a huge breakthrough,” Schneiderman said. However, he emphasized that constituents must keep the pressure on the governor and the legislature in the coming months in order to get it passed. Read more…

Yes, Please: Webcast Legislative Committee Meetings and Votes

Reinvent Albany joined a January 14 Memorandum of Support from good government groups for a bill that requires legislative committee meetings and votes to be webcast  “to the extent practicable.” It also requires that committee and session votes be placed online within 24 hours of being cast.  The bill, A2097-B (Hevesi) / S3046-B (Marcellino) is a laudable step forward.

Given how inexpensive webcasting is – legislative interns with smart phones could stream to a Livestream channel – we think it is always “practicable.” But the legislature only streams from rooms already wired with webcams or with bulky, high definition equipment that greatly increases costs. So we will see. Our memo calls for strengthening the bill by:

[R]equiring archiving of videos on governmental websites, clarifying that hearings and forums should be webcast in addition to meetings, clarifying that webcasts should be conducted live, and providing online memos of support or opposition to legislation voted on in committee.

Thank you to Assembly member Andy Hevesi and Senator Marcellino for sponsoring the bill, and to Citizens Union for championing it.

Memo Support State Webcasting A2097

Money in Politics in NY: Jan 24 Edition

Gov. Cuomo Proposes Public Financing of Elections in Budget

In his executive budget proposal to the legislature this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo included legislation advancing reforms to the state’s campaign finance, disclosure and election laws. Under the proposal, contributions up to $175 to state legislative candidates would be matched with public financing at a 6-to-1 ratio, starting in 2016. Then in 2018, candidates for state-wide office would also be eligible for the voluntary public financing program. Participating candidates would have to abide by strict contribution and spending limits in exchange for the public funds. “I think it is inarguable that the amount of money in politics has created a number of difficult issues,” Cuomo stated in his executive budget presentation. Other proposals in the budget were lower corporate contribution limits, down to $1,000 per year, new limits on donations to party “housekeeping accounts” at $25,000 per year, detailed prohibitions on using campaign contributions for the personal benefit of a candidate, and disclosure of major donors supporting organizations engaged in independent expenditures. The law would also create an Independent Division of Election Law Enforcement in the State Board of Elections, with a budget of $5.3 million and additional staff to support enforcement of campaign and election rules. Read more…

New Council Gov Ops Chair is Civic Technologist

It’s been a great couple of months for prominent NYC civic technologist Ben Kallos; In November, Kallos was elected to represent Manhattan’s Upper East Side in the city council, and today he was appointed chair of the Council’s Government Operations committee.

Along with newly appointed Technology Chair Jimmy Vaca, Kallos’s support will be crucial for advancing open government legislation and oversight in Council. Kallos comes to the council after a stint at the good government group, the New Roosevelt Initiative. He also is an experienced web developer and has created a number of open government tools including: OpenLegislation.org to put New York State Assembly and New York State Senate attendance and voting records online for free for the first time,WikiLaw.org (merged with JurisPedia.org) to make the law more accessible, and VoterSearch.org.

We look forward to working with Ben and his colleague Jimmy Vaca on new legislation to modernize how city agencies respond to the state Freedom of Information Law, and to improve, expand and accelerate implementation of the open data law, and new public facing technology.

Money in Politics in New York: Jan 17 Edition

Good Government Groups Ask Gov. Cuomo for Reform
Thirty good-government, trade and faith-based organizations penned a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday, urging him to include public financing of state campaigns in his annual executive budget proposal. “New Yorkers have waited long enough for action on curbing corruption and reducing the undue influence and role of campaign money in state government,” the letter stated. Governor Cuomo can add campaign finance reform in his executive budget proposal set to go out next Tuesday. This would force the state legislature to negotiate on anti-corruption measures. According to the groups, the “state budget process allows the best opportunity for making campaign reform a reality in 2014.” The Brennan Center, Common Cause NY, the New York Public Interest Research Group, the State Council of Churches, the Long Island Progressive Coalition, and the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce were just some of the signatories to the letter. Read more…