New York — Today, local and national champions of racial equity, democracy, and workers’ rights delivered an open letter to New York State officials urging the inclusion of much-needed campaign finance reform in the State’s 2019 budget.
Campaign finance reform is as much about civil rights as it is about racial equity. Leaders of Demos, 32BJ Service Employees International Union, Community Voices Heard, Make the Road New York, Working Families Party, and New York Communities for Change called upon elected officials to proactively challenge the inherently exclusionary, discriminatory system of campaign donations that harms marginalized communities by placing the agendas of wealthy white donors over the priorities, needs, and electoral will of the general public. A system of Fair Elections for New York State will not only allow for candidates from diverse communities to compete, but it will help build lasting political power for communities of color.
“The fight for fair elections is really a fight to open our democracy for communities of color. The data shows us clearly that the donor class is made up of wealthy, white elites, giving them a disproportionate influence on policy,” said Demos Senior Campaign Strategist Amshula K. Jayaram. “Voices from all sides of the debate have been wary of acknowledging this, focusing instead on the impact of corporate money and the need for good governance. These are of course important, but the issue of racial equity has been buried allowing lawmakers and others to dismiss the importance of campaign finance as an urgent civil rights issue.”
The letter, addressed to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, and Speaker Carl Heastie, demands New York State enact campaign finance reform that includes a small donor matching system, lower outside contribution limits for state level races, and a fair administrative agency to ensure effective implementation.
“It’s clear that on critical policy issues the white donor class sharply differs from people of color, both in priorities and in understanding of the issues,” the letter states. “As we tackle issues such as bail reform, legalization of marijuana and debt free college, these differences will continue to have a direct impact on our chances of winning policy solutions that are not only politically viable but substantively strong.”
It continues, “New York State has been blessed with a vibrant and diverse community, every member of which deserves a seat at the table – and that seat shouldn’t have a price tag of $1,000. White donor class domination is a policy choice, not an inevitable condition.”
With the Democratic control of the executive and reassertion of Democratic control of the state legislature, the time to act in the name of fair representation for all New Yorkers is now.