Common Cause/NY Responds to Gov’s Comments on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show

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  • Susan Lerner
NYS can do much more to curtail anonymous IE spending

NEW YORK, NY — Today Governor Cuomo appeared on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show to talk about a number of issues including campaign finance reform. While calling for reform to address the endemic corruption in Albany, he dismissed campaign finance efforts as well as public financing of elections as seemingly meaningless in the face of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United vs. FEC. The Governor seemed to suggest that Citizens United is the reason we suffer from large anonymous donors who give under the guise of Independent Expenditures.

In response, Common Cause/NY Executive Director, Susan Lerner, issued the following statement:

“Anonymous spending is not what Citizens United is about; it’s what New York State has permitted it to become. The state is not powerless to act and I am disappointed that the Governor would suggest otherwise. Quite simply, the state has failed to avail itself of any number of reforms which would curtail the corrupting influence of money in politics.”

The following is a quick list of actions the state could take to reduce the role of anonymous donors and offset the Citizens United decision:

• Pushback against secret money by instituting full transparency to improve disclosures of Independent Expenditure Committees

• Require that contributors have to identify their occupation and employer.

• Define and bar coordination between IE committees and campaigns, and enforce a ban (as in the NYC law).

• Require disclosure for bundlers (as we in NYC).

• Maintain the Doing Business database at the state level and tie it to campaign finance.

• Fight secret money by requiring that any IE funded direct communication with voters (ie: mail or tv ) list the top3 or 5 donors to the committee (as in NYC, MA, RI, and CA).

• Require that any donation between committees be disclosed so committees can not hide interlocking donors (as in California).

• Provide public funding of elections so that candidates have the resources to get their message out, even in the face of large IE spending. In NYC, successful candidates for Council demonstrated that public financing of elections is the most effective counter to unlimited IE spending.

In 2013, Common Cause/NY released an analysis of IE spending in city elections and found that despite overwhelming pressure, candidates without IE support were able to compete and win thanks to NYC’s system of publically financed elections.

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