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Attention Governor Cuomo: Support for Public Financing in NY is Growing

J. Mijin Cha

The co-chair of the Moreland Commission set up to investigate campaign finance issues in New York, William Fitzpatrick, is a Republican, fiscal conservative, and a recent convert to public financing. Fitzpatrick stated, “If the money's not there, I'm inclined not to spend it. But in reality, based on what I've learned over the last couple of months, I'm now a proponent of public financing." He also added that public financing would reduce the pay-to-lay culture in Albany that has led to criminal indictment. Comparing the costs imposed by this type of culture with the cost of public financing, Fitzpatrick pointed out that the costs savings of public financing would be “astronomical.”

The Commission’s other co-chair, Kathleen Rice has also come out in support of public financing. Rice is quoted as saying the work of the Commission has "made me confident that public financing of campaigns has to be part of any meaningful campaign-finance reform." Joining her is Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who helped form the Moreland Commission and recently said that public financing should be a part of whatever recommendations come from the Commission.

Adding to the chorus, Cynthia DiBartolo, chairwoman of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, wrote an op-ed advocating for public financing. DiBartolo pointed out that the needs and concerns of small- and medium- sized businesses are drowned out by big business and affluent interests. DiBartolo also includes a 2012 poll of New York business leaders that showed a vast majority -- 72 percent -- support a public matching system for state elections. Like the average citizen, small and mid-sized businesses’ voices are being drowned out by the money flooding our electoral system.

As we’ve pointed out continuously, corporate and affluent interests dominate political spending, and in turn, dominate policy priorities and outcomes. It’s the reason we focus on deficit reduction and not job creation; why the minimum wage hasn’t been increased in over four years but capital gains tax rates are continually cut; and why we had a government shutdown that hurt workers, families, and small businesses.

Public financing can change the role of money in our electoral system, and in turn, change policy priorities. Connecticut shows this to be true. Once the state implemented a public financing system, the policies the legislature passed were more in line with working and middle class interests. After public financing was implemented, the state passed the country’s first state wide paid sick day policy, increased the minimum wage, implemented a statewide EITC, and a number of other policies that help support working and middle class constituents.

Support for public financing in New York is growing among both parties, business interests, and constituents. The question is -- are the Governor and Legislature listening?