Published May 9, 2013
A statewide discussion on how political campaigns in New York should be financed comes to Buffalo on May 16.
“Promoting Small Dollar Democracy: The Role of Money in Politics in New York State” will take place at 5:30 p.m. in the Crystal Ballroom of the Hotel Lafayette, 391 Washington St., Buffalo.
It is hosted by NY LEAD (New York Leadership for Accountable Government), a newly formed group of civic, business, political and philanthropic leaders; co-sponsors are the UB Law School, the Brennan Center for Justice, Housh Law Offices and Americans for Campaign Reform, Common Cause New York.
The keynote speaker will be New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Also speaking will be Brittany L. Stalsburg, associate analyst, Lake Research Partners. An open discussion will follow the presentations.
At issue is what some see as the disproportionate influence of deep-pocketed donors, including individuals and out-of-state political action committees, in New York’s electoral process. NY LEAD advocates a different approach in which candidates for the state Senate, Assembly and the executive branch would fund their campaigns through a broad base of small constituent donors whose contributions would be matched with public funds.
“As business and civic leaders, we know that the current system can be debilitating for democracy and can lead to misplaced priorities and special-interest-dominated legislative paralysis,” according to a NY LEAD position paper. “The continued disquiet toward government and the economy underscores the need to rebuild public trust. A steady stream of scandals underscores the fact that New York State has among the country’s weakest campaign laws.”
The group also notes that in his “State of the State” message this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for public funding of campaigns. NY LEAD’s proposal, which it calls a “fair elections” system, is modeled on a similar system that has existed in New York City for two decades.
“It’s widely recognized that there’s too much money in politics, and both state and federal governments engage in campaign-finance regulation,” says Michael Halberstam, UB associate professor of law whose research interests includes campaign finance reform. “This group is mounting a campaign for the reform of New York State campaign finance laws to make sure that we safeguard the integrity of our electoral process and the responsiveness of state legislatures to the citizens who elect them.”
The May 16 event comes on the heels of “Under the Influence? Interest Groups, Lobbying and Campaign Finance,” a major conference in March sponsored by the Law School’s Baldy Center for Law & Social Policy that brought academics and activists together to discuss, among other issues, the influence of outside money on state and local election contests and legislatures.
Registration for “Promoting Small Dollar Democracy” is available through the Brennan Center’s website. Admission is free.