Posted tagged ‘public financing of elections’

We Need Public Financing Of Elections

April 17, 2012

Political campaigns are where power and cash meet. Politicians need lot’s of money to run for office. People seeking jobs or government business provide the money politicians need. The current campaign process truly is a “pay to play” system in that the best way to get a politicians attention is by donating money to their campaign.

Less than .5 percent (1/2 of a percent) of New York State residents contribute to political candidates. New York politicians can collect up to $60,800 per donor for a statewide race. That compares with about $5,000 per contributor for most other states. There are no limits on contributions to political parties.

Andrew Cuomo raised $24 million when running for Governor of New York State. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown in campaign years has amassed a war chest of $1 million, in a city that is the third poorest in the nation with a shrinking population of 270,000. Those campaign dollars represent a lot of IOU’s that have to be addressed one way or another for a politician to continue receiving needed funds.

People donate money to political candidates with an expectation of getting something in return and they are usually not seeking good government. What is typically sought by campaign donors are jobs or government business contracts.

A lack of money prevents many people from seeking public office or from having their ideas heard in any meaningful way if they do run. Public financing is an important way to address the influence obtained by big political donors and the advantages afforded to incumbents.

In 1988 New York City adopted a partial public financing system, which currently provides participating candidates six dollars in public matching funds for each of the first $175 that an individual city resident gives to their campaigns. This formula makes a $175 donor as valuable to participating candidates as a $1,225 donor is to non-participants.

According to a report by the Campaign Finance Institute:

In New York State in 2010, only 6% of candidates’ money came from donors who give $250 or less. In contrast, 78% came from non-party-organizations (such as PACs) and individuals who gave $1,000 or more.

According to the Campaign Finance Institute, New York City’s public financing of campaigns has significantly encouraged more candidates, more small donors and more public interest in elections. A city candidate can get $6 in public money for every $1 raised, up to $175 per donor. As a result, 37 percent of the contributions to participating city candidates are for $250 or less. Only 5 percent of state donors give less than $250.

We need public financing of campaigns to encourage more competition and participation in elections.

Public Financing Of Elections Is A Game Changer

January 26, 2011

Several government watchdog groups have begun an effort to bring public financing of elections to New York State.

I support public financing of elections as our current election system is nothing more than legalized bribery. Most political contributions are made to get a patronage job, or government contract. Andrew Cuomo raised $24 million for his New York Governor race. Buffalo Mayors and Erie County Executives typically raise $1 million plus for their campaign coffers; most of those dollars are given with the expectation of receiving a favor in return. Even Judges get in on the act; there is something inherently wrong with giving money to a Judge and then appearing in front of them as a lawyer for decisions.

It is extremely difficult for candidates who do not have the support of special interest groups to obtain campaign funding. Lesser known candidates are typically excluded from debates. One exception was the televised New York State Governor debate, which was critical for providing exposure to the Green Party, Libertarian and the Rent is Too Damn High candidate. These non-major party candidates had some interesting thoughts and views about New York State government. Public financing of elections will allow other voices to be heard besides candidates backed by special interests and political parties.

Twenty-six states and New York City have some form of public financing for elections. Under New York City’s public financing system, which has been in place for twenty years,  public matching funds are provided  to qualifying candidates, who submit to strict contribution and spending limits. New York City provides a $6 match for every dollar raised up to $175 per donation; thus an individual donation of $175 turns into a total of $1,225. As a result of public financing, New York City now has competitive elections in which average citizens have a shot at elective office. Moreover, once in office, those legislators owe little to special interests.

According to a campaign finance study conducted by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), 59,350 New York State residents donated to political candidates and parties. As 19.5 million people live in New York State, less than a half of one percent of New York residents contributed to state wide candidates or parties. Even less people contributed to candidates for the state legislature.  A more amazing statistic is that 25% of individual contributions came from 169 people with an average donation exceeding $63,000. Overall, however, most political contributions come from businesses, trade associations, unions and lobbyists.

The average person simply is not on the same playing field as far as having their governmental concerns addressed. The only way to lessen the impact of our current system of is to implement public financing of elections. Public financing changes the game by increasing the number of candidate voices that can be heard, allowing candidates to win elections who are not beholden to special interest money.

What do you think about implementing public financing of elections in New York State?