For Immediate Release:
September 16, 2013
Susan Lerner, Common Cause/NY, 212-691-6421;
Jesse Laymon, Citizen Action of NY, 646-530-0378;
Joe Dinkin, Working Families Party, (978) 223 5868
CITY COUNCIL PRIMARY WINNERS CREDIT PUBLIC FINANCING SYSTEM IN NEGATING INFLUENCE OF REAL ESTATE SUPER PAC
CALL FOR MORELAND COMMISSION TO RECOMMEND PUBLIC FINANCING FOR STATE ELECTIONS
Victorious Democratic candidates for City Council joined together on the steps of City Hall to urge the Moreland Commission to recommend public financing of elections for all of New York State. The candidates all expressed their refusal to be influenced by the real estate-backed PAC "Jobs for New York", which spent $5 million on 22 separate council races yet failed to claim sweeping victories due to a City public financing system that amplified the voice of average New Yorkers over special interests.
Jobs for New York (JFNY), a Political Action Committee founded by The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), raised nearly $7.1 million by exploiting the LLC loophole, which allowed it to raise funds from just 25 companies through 121 subsidiaries, donating an average of $277,400 each. As Common Cause noted in an analysis last Thursday, in races where Jobs for New York did not support the clear and consistent front-runner, the PAC yielded only a dismal 33% success rate. Public financing of elections enabled candidates vying for City Council that were not backed by Jobs for New York to remain competitive.
One day before the Moreland Commission's first hearing on September 17,Carlos Menchaca, Laurie Cumbo, Daneek Miller, Ben Kallos, and Mark Levine joined other City Council candidates in delivering testimonies against "Jobs for New York" spending in their districts. The primary victors all praised the public financing system in New York City as negating the effects of JFNY expenditures, and called on the Moreland Commission to scrutinize the negative effects of special interest spending and recommend public financing of elections for the entire state.
"They spent more than $300,000 in favor of my incumbent opponent, but small donors who supported me won instead. Without public financing in New York City, I would not be standing here. The Moreland Commission should take these City Council elections as a guide for what the state needs," said candidate Carlos Menchaca of District 38 in Brooklyn.
"Candidates like these primary winners represent the best hope for overcoming Citizens United and the corrosive effect of big money politics," said Jesse Laymon, Downstate Campaigns Manager of Citizen Action of NY. "They have proven that we can best the Super PACs and billionaires, with the power of small donors, public matching funds, and grassroots campaigns. This should be the way forward for all of New York State."
"Thanks to the counterweight of the public matching system, City Council candidates were overwhelmingly able to communicate directly with voters despite REBNY's best efforts to manipulate the discourse. In their top seven priority races, Jobs for New York spent over $2 million but failed to claim more than just two Election Day victories. That's a terrible rate of return on a big investment, but good news for voters. The big winner this Election Day is the City's campaign finance system which continues to amplify the voice of average New York City Voters. The Moreland Commission should recommend that all New Yorkers enjoy the benefits of a public financing system," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.
"The only way to guarantee that the voice of the people will be heard is by making sure big money, like Jobs for New York, doesn't have undue influence. As a member of the State Assembly for the last 7 and a half years, we've long supported public financing, and I can assure you it would have a liberating effect on Albany," said candidate Alan Maisel of District 46 in Brooklyn.
"Special interests flooded my district with their cash, but small donors and matching funds from the City gave me the power to be accountable only to the people. The Moreland Commission needs to know that moneyed interests couldn't buy City Hall this summer, but we need public financing to stop them buying Albany too," said candidate Ritchie Torres of District 15 in the Bronx.
"Hundreds of thousands of dollars in real estate spending behind my opponent failed to drown out the voices of average voters. Public financing helped me win in spite of super PAC spending, and now I can look to best serve people in my district because I have my independence," said candidate Daneek Miller of District 27 in Queens.
"A lot of money was spent here to buy influence. But thanks to the City's small donor, public matching system, the only people I'll be accountable to are the residents of the 7th Councilmanic district. If the Moreland Commission is serious about cleaning up the culture of corruption in Albany, they'll strongly recommend publicly financed elections for the State," said candidate Mark Levine of District 7 in Upper Manhattan.
"Without public financing of New York State elections, make no mistake--we can be sure that the outrageous spending by real estate interests we just witnessed in the recent City Council primaries will be repeated and magnified in order to drown out the voices of New York State voters," said Bob Master, Political Director of Communications Workers of America.
"The original intention of our democratic process was to place the power in the hands of the people. Outside spending in campaigns on all levels undermines our democracy by giving the loudest voice to those with the most money, power and influence. It is imperative that the Moreland Commission return the power to the people so that elected officials are accountable to their constituents not outside interest groups," said candidate Laurie Cumbo of District 35 in Brooklyn.
"The public financing program has allowed me and many others to run for office, and is an important part of making our local government more representative. The introduction of outside money from corporations and wealthy people with special interests is bad for our city and bad for democracy," said candidate Costa Constantinides of District 22 in Queens.
"Public financing is a great equalizer that allows reform candidates like me to take on established politicians and win without being indebted to the very same special interests that I was running against. Public financing worked in New York City and can work for New York State," said candidate Ben Kallos of District 5 in Manhattan.
Fair Elections for New York is a statewide campaign supporting comprehensive campaign finance reform with public funding of elections at its core. The coalition has over 100 endorsing groups, including: Common Cause, Citizen Action of New York, Working Families Party, Communications Workers of America, United Auto Workers, Hotel Trades Council, SEIU32BJ, 1199SEIU, Met Council on Housing, and more.
Office: Common Cause New York
Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.