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editorial

The rules apply to all candidates


May 15, 2013

Campaign finance reform has been moved to the front burner in New York State (NYS) in recent weeks. Little wonder, in light of a number of elected officials involved in political corruption scandals that have rocked Albany lately.

Perhaps this is what pushed the state assembly last week to pass, by a vote of 87 to 49, the 2013 Fair Elections Act to reform the state’s campaign finance system. The bill (A.4980-C) would cover statewide offices, state legislative offices and constitutional convention delegates. It would establish optional public financing of elections, create an independent Board of Fair Elections and increase disclosure of the sources of political contributions. A similar bill (S.4897), titled the 2013 Integrity in Elections Act is before the NYS Senate, and Governor Cuomo has released his own proposals for campaign finance reform.

Albany’s hot topic is on the minds of many voters, too.

A recent bipartisan poll of New Yorkers showed overwhelming support for campaign finance reform in the Empire State. After seven out of 10 people polled gave the state’s legislators a negative rating, fully 82% of those surveyed said they blamed the legislature’s poor performance on the influence of money in politics and on corruption. The survey was paid for by New York’s Friends of Democracy (www.scribd.com/doc/139756430/NY-Friends-of-Democracy-CFR-Survey-Press-Me...), one of several organizations (as well as Fair Elections for New York and Citizens Union) are advocating for reform, including public matching funds for small campaign donations, lower ceilings on campaign contributions, fully identifying outside contributors and their expenditures, and strict enforcement of NYS campaign finance rules and regulations.

Even business seems to be considering the wisdom of changing the political culture in Albany. Last October, when 300 NYS business leaders were polled, they too offered broad support for campaign finance reform. (This was a Zogby Analytics poll funded by the Committee for Economic Development.) For one business executive’s take on the subject, read Jerome Kohlberg’s recent op-ed column, “Public Financing, Public Trust,” in Crain’s New York Business. (www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20130428/OPINION/304289983)