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Legislation Would Reform NY Elections to Make Them Fair

New York State can be a national leader in campaign finance reform.

Fair elections are the heart of this country’s democracy and fundamental to preserving good government. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has had devastating effects on federal elections, shining light on the need for New York to reduce the influence of money in our own state elections.

That’s why I’m supporting a landmark bill that would establish New York State as a national leader in campaign finance reform. The legislation provides a regulatory system of optional public financing for all state-office primary, general and special election campaigns — returning the focus of elections to the substance of the issues and candidates (A.9885).

An Assembly candidate would have to raise $10,000 from 100 New York State residents to be eligible for the public funding — $5,000 from 50 individual contributors in their specific Assembly District — with $250 from each individual contributor counting toward the total. For every dollar raised in private donations, the state would match $6, up to $150,000. Other offices would have similar regulations and matching limits.

The legislation imposes no limit on the total amount of private funds a candidate could raise, but disallows any single private donor from contributing more than $2,000 to a campaign. This would have a profound impact on how campaigns are funded and it would benefit East End voters. Capping private donors and requiring a broad array of small contributors would help level the playing field.

The legislation would also require any candidate receiving public financing to participate in debates where all candidates are welcome, regardless of funding sources. Lesser-known candidates would receive an unprecedented amount of exposure and voters would get the best chance to learn the differences between candidates and who best represents their interests.

This reform would be a giant step toward an election system every New Yorker could be proud of. The legislation also provides means for funding. Drawing from the $3 federal income tax check-off for presidential campaigns, New York would add a voluntary $5 income tax check-off for state elections, with no additional burden on the individual. The money would then be deposited into the newly created “New York State Campaign Finance Fund.” An additional 10 percent surcharge from securities fraud and settlements collected by the state attorney general would also be used.

The Assembly has a longstanding tradition of supporting campaign finance reform. When our election laws were first established, no one could have foreseen the emergence of high-dollar donors and their effect on the political process. I strongly support instituting a system that produces a fair and equitable competition to represent the people of New York State.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

David D'Agostino May 01, 2012 at 09:08 PM
I applaud any attempt at campaign finance reform and I think New York should take the lead in limiting the influence of big money on campaigns.
David D'Agostino May 01, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Government can do more than one thing at a time, especially if they are no longer beholden to special interests. The gov't already provides funding to candidates and they already give us the option of contributing. As someone who is more concerned with giving voice to the individual than to corporations, I would gladly check that $5 box. I hope this legislation is just the beginning of real reform to come. Reform that voters from both parties overwhelmingly support.
Fred S Hart May 02, 2012 at 04:48 PM
You are referencing fedral campaigns
Preliator May 02, 2012 at 05:28 PM
If you think having to show ID to vote is meant to limit voting you are crazy. Why is it so hard to ask some one to prove who they are when they vote when you need it for everything else?
K May 02, 2012 at 06:44 PM
The fact of the matter is that this isn't campaign finance reform nor would it give more voice to the people. The government would be taking the cash, putting it into a large fund and giving it to candidates. I feel confident in my ability to contribute my own money directly to a candidate and would like to see corporate interests curtailed. This only addresses private donors and sticks a new government entity between an individual voter and a candidate. If you want real campaign finance reform you have got to clear government out from between the candidates and the voters and promote that relationship and address the corporate funds.

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