Common Cause New York organized an Anti-Corruption Rally and Vigil yesterday with our allies from the Moral Mondays NY coalition. Gathering in front of Governor Cuomo's New York City office, we delivered a petition with over 2,000 signers demanding an end to public corruption in Albany. We were joined by the Moral Mondays New York movement, in which faith, labor and community activists are declaring the moral imperative in our state policy and budget deliberations.
We called on Governor Cuomo to make good (this time) on his promises to clean up Albany and work with the Legislature to pass strong and sweeping ethics and campaign finance reform. Speakers at the event highlighted that with the arrest of Speaker Sheldon Silver, there are now 32 state legislators who have been indicted or have left office due to criminal or ethical issues since 2000.
Governor Cuomo has declared that he will not sign a budget unless it includes a package of ethics reforms, with greater disclosure of legislators' outside income. Responding to what they termed "a corruption crisis," the Moral Mondays groups are calling for campaign finance reforms that include public financing of elections, as Cuomo's Executive budget proposes. The groups asserted that fighting corruption means getting big money out of politics to elevate every voice and strengthen our democracy.
After the rally, Lauren George with Common Cause NY personally delivered thousands of petitions from New Yorkers across the state to Governor Cuomo's staff calling for swift passage of a meaningful ethics reform package. It was an exciting moment of connection between street action and engagement with our target, as we could deliver the voices of people across the state in a meaningful way that captured media attention.
Participants heard from clergy members from all three Abrahamic faiths – Reverend Valerie H. Holly, Community Minister, Judson Memorial Church; Imam Samer Alraey, Board Member, Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition; and Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Executive Director, Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition. Together they cited anti-corruption teachings from the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths.
"New Yorkers expect that their elected representatives will serve the public interest, not special interests or their own self-interest, and that they understand that they are public servants, who should not abuse the public trust," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY. "These are quintessential moral concepts. New York needs strong ethics and campaign finance laws to help guide our elected officials. Once criminal law is involved, something has gone very wrong with an elected official's moral compass. The root of all of these concerns is money in politics; we're here to bring morality back into state governance."