Money in Politics
Big money has long dominated our elections, and the problem has only gotten worse after the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling in 2010, which paved the way for unlimited amounts of corporate money in our elections.
Common Cause/NY is working for campaign finance reforms that will help bring government back to the people by reducing the influence of wealthy special interests, expanding public funding of campaigns and encouraging campaigns to seek funding from a broader base of small contributors. Our research reports help illuminate the extent of this problem.
Instead of focusing on the many issues important to New Yorkers, your representatives in Albany spend hours each day begging for campaign contributions from the lobbyists and special interests. It’s no surprise that special interests and wealthy donors have enormous influence.
It’s time Albany finally returns to government of, by, and for the people – not government bought and paid for by the special interests. As long as politicians are accountable to the corporations and lobbyists who finance their campaigns, they’re never going to be accountable to the people who elected them. Let’s get our elected officials out of the fundraising game and insist they do the job we elected them to do: tackle important issues and listen to their constituents.
A “Fair Elections” system reduces the influence of money and special interests by allowing candidates to run for office by collecting many small donations and receiving public funds to run their campaign. It put elections back in the hands of voters, and is proven to increase small donor participation in campaigns.
Common Cause/NY is working on a campaign for Fair Elections for New York that is focused on four key goals, enumerated by Governor Cuomo in his State of the State Address:
1. Public Financing of Elections – establishing a voluntary system to empower small donors by matching their contributions with public money, similar to NYC’s successful system.
2. Lower Contribution Limits – bringing New York State’s sky-high contribution limits down to reasonable levels.
3. Ending Pay-to-Play – saving public dollars by preventing contributions and bundling by contractors and lobbyists from influencing decisions about state business.
4. Stronger Enforcement and Transparency – ensuring that our laws are enforced in a fair, effective and timely manner, and that public matching funds are appropriately disbursed.
Join the Fair Elections Campaign: sign the petition, host a house party, call your legislators, attend lobby day and more...click here for more info.
Creating a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United
The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010 allowed that corporations have the same rights as people, and that their unlimited corporate spending is the same as our free speech. Then in June 2012, the Supreme Court declined to take another look at their 2010 Citizens United decision. They reversed a decision by the Montana Supreme Court that had defied the Citizens United ruling by upholding a centuries-old ban on corporate political spending. We disagree—because only people are people.
What does this mean going forward? The fight continues at the ballot box.
Thanks to the hard work of Common Cause, other organizations, and people like you, we have already won resolutions in four states and 288 cities and towns (including New York City, Yonkers, & Troy) urging Congress to kick corporations out of our elections and limit campaign spending.
Some of the nation's largest and richest companies have joined forces to invest millions of dollars each year to promote the careers of thousands of state legislators and secure passage of legislation that puts corporate interests ahead of the interests of ordinary Americans.
The American Legislative Exchange Council, also known as ALEC, counts among its members some 2,000 state legislators and corporate executives. They sit side-by-side and collaborate to draft "model" bills that reach into areas of American life ranging from voting rights to environmental protection. They work in concert to get those bills passed in statehouses across the country.
In April 2012, Common Cause launched a whistleblower complaint against ALEC (www.CommonCause.org/IRSWhistleblower) charging that it misuses charity laws, massively underreports lobbying, and obtains improper tax breaks for corporate funders at the taxpayers' expense. Over 4,000 pages of ALEC documents were submitted as evidence.
On the heels of the whistleblower complaint, Common Cause/NY asked Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to look into the tax status of ALEC in New York. ALEC is registered in New York with the Attorney General's Office as a charitable organization, where it enjoys tax-exempt status under section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. A letter sent Attorney General Schneiderman charges that ALEC is primarily a lobbying organization and may therefore be in violation of its tax exempt status. Common Cause/NY is calling on the Attorney General to review ALEC's 990 form and investigate their activities to ensure that they are in compliance with state tax and lobbying laws.
Is Your New York State Legislator a Member of ALEC? Help us find out, click here for more info.
Faith, Money, & Reform
In May, Common Cause/NY sponsored a Forum on Faith, Money, & Reform: A Discussion of the Moral Imperative of Campaign Finance Reform.
Watch the forum below:
Our research reports highlights the need to get big money out of politics.
Some recent reports:
Stacking the Deck: The Gambling Industry's Political Spending in New York State
Playing the Influence Market: Analysis of Hedge Fund Campaign Contributions In New York State
Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets: Part 3- Expenditures of the Natural Gas Industry in New York - Campaign Contributions
Lifting The Veil: A Report Analyzing Grassroots Lobbying in New York State and Recommending Amendments to the Lobbying Act