Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/citizens-united 2017-12-15T12:24:51+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Board of Elections to Consider Emergency Regulations for Independent Expenditures 2016-09-14T04:00:00+00:00 2016-09-14T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6527:board-of-elections-set-to-consider-emergency-regulations-for-independent-expenditures Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/24278049491_ffa076d6a7_z_1.jpg" alt="cuomo podium state of the state" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: Governor's Office on Flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>The State Board of Elections is set to consider a set of emergency regulations governing independent expenditure campaigns at its board meeting on Thursday morning in Albany. The regulations will come just two days after state legislative primary elections and two months before the general election. Political action committees (PACs) and Super Pacs, or independent expenditure committees, have already had a significant presence in this year&rsquo;s primary contests.</p> <p>The BOE is responding to new legislation championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who signed his controversial reform bill on August 24 after passing it through the Legislature by message of necessity in late June. The bill goes into effect 30 days after Cuomo signs it, thus putting pressure on the BOE to respond.</p> <p>The law enacts restrictions on how independent expenditure campaigns operate; expands what constitutes illegal coordination with a candidate and limits who can work for Super PACs. The legislation also sets new disclosure requirements for nonprofit lobbying groups and issue advocacy groups - for this piece, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics moved on emergency regulations earlier this year.</p> <p>On Thursday, the BOE will consider emergency regulations in the middle of an election season that has already seen major spending by Super PACs, especially in New York City where New Yorkers For Independent Action, a pro-charter school group, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6505-education-focused-super-pac-spends-on-additional-legislative-races" target="_blank">pumped millions of dollars</a> into Democratic primary contests.</p> <p>Board members have expressed concern at previous meetings that the law could be disruptive and counterintuitive given that election season is already well underway.</p> <p>Democratic BOE Chair Douglas Kellner told Gotham Gazette that he isn&rsquo;t convinced the board needs to act on emergency regulations. &ldquo;From my point of view I&rsquo;m not exactly sure why we need emergency regulations that just track the bill, but we will discuss that on Thursday,&rdquo; Kellner said.</p> <p>Republican BOE Chair Peter Kosinski said that the emergency regulations are necessary to keep interested parties informed of the changes to the laws relating to independent expenditures and to put the information in one place.</p> <p>Once the emergency regulations are adopted the public will have 45 days to comment on them.</p> <p>&rdquo;The reality is that the emergency regulation idea is related to the fact that we are headed into the November election and people need information about the changes,&rdquo; said Kosinski. &ldquo;This does not preclude the normal regulation process or any future changes. We will go through the normal process in a couple of months.&rdquo; In other words, any emergency regulations will be temporary and then re-evaluated after the election cycle.</p> <p>Kellner said he also shares concerns about the timing of the bill&rsquo;s enactment given that election season is already in full swing.</p> <p>&ldquo;The board is really between a rock and a hard place,&rdquo; said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. &ldquo;If the Governor wanted the law to be in effect for the election he should have signed it in June.&rdquo; It is unclear why Cuomo waited until August to sign the bill. After unveiling the plan for the legislation during a speech in New York City toward the end of the legislative session, the governor held no public ceremony to sign and promote the bill.</p> <p>Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, said the BOE is being &ldquo;responsible in providing necessary guidance on the law even if it is poorly written and flawed.&rdquo; Dadey added that &ldquo;we shouldn&rsquo;t be changing the rules in the fourth quarter of the game.&rdquo;</p> <p>Speaking <a href="http://www.twcnews.com/nys/capital-region/politics/2016/08/25/cuomo-ethics-bill-follow-new-york-state-albany.html" target="_blank">with reporters</a> in August, Cuomo touted the new regulations. Of not getting everything he wants done on government ethics reform, he also said, &ldquo;Ethics in many ways is like other activities in life. It's an ongoing pursuit.&rdquo;</p> <p>Kosinski, the Republican BOE chair, said that the time for fretting over the implementation timeline is over. &ldquo;People have to deal with that best they can. These emergency regulations are our effort to inform people of the law so that when people look for guidance on the new laws we give them accurate information,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>Advocates had decried the process by which the bill was passed. Cuomo introduced the measure late in session claiming that it was designed to beat back the Supreme Court&rsquo;s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for outside money in candidate campaigns. But the bill also included a section forcing non-profit advocacy groups to disclose more of their donors, and to report to the state, through JCOPE, their various communications about legislation, government officials, regulations, and government-related matters.</p> <p>Like other times he has used them, Cuomo was criticized for his issuance of a message of necessity that preempts the required three-day aging process designed to encourage public review. Legislators received the bill after midnight and voted on it only a few hours later.</p> <p>Cuomo, who generally controls when passed bills come to his desk for signature or veto, <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/08/questions-of-timing-surround-reform-bills-implementation-104652" target="_blank">didn&rsquo;t call the bill up</a> from the Legislature until mid-August <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6476-for-cuomo-passing-ethics-bill-was-urgent-signing-it-is-not" target="_blank">after facing public pressure</a>.</p> <p>The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which is headed by former Cuomo staffer Seth Agata and is controlled by appointees of Cuomo and legislative leaders, moved on emergency regulations in early August. The part of the bill that deals with sources of funding for nonprofits goes into effect 30 days after the bill is signed.</p> <p>The new law sets a definition of what is coordination between independent expenditure campaigns and candidates, and according to Kosinski the law could catch some off guard. &ldquo;There were significant changes going where the state hasn&rsquo;t gone before in detailing coordination, it was really fleshed out and I think people need to be aware of that going forward.&rdquo;</p> <p>Dadey said that he hopes there will be time for the kind of careful and nuanced discussion of the implementation of the law that was denied to the public before the bill was passed.</p> <p>&ldquo;I hope whatever is adopted on Thursday does not lead to greater confusion or conflict with existing law,&rdquo; said Dadey. &ldquo;We had no time to talk about this piece of legislation as a public, I hope more time is taken to discuss it now that it is law.&rdquo;</p> <p>Brandon Muir, executive director of Reclaim New York, an organization focused on government transparency, said that Albany lawmakers waited until the last minute to formulate the bill and then wasted more time signing it. &ldquo;Because they dodged having a timely, open process, we&rsquo;re in for another last-second &ldquo;emergency&rdquo; push that serves political interests and an agenda that New Yorkers didn&rsquo;t ask for,&rdquo; Muir said.</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/24278049491_ffa076d6a7_z_1.jpg" alt="cuomo podium state of the state" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: Governor's Office on Flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>The State Board of Elections is set to consider a set of emergency regulations governing independent expenditure campaigns at its board meeting on Thursday morning in Albany. The regulations will come just two days after state legislative primary elections and two months before the general election. Political action committees (PACs) and Super Pacs, or independent expenditure committees, have already had a significant presence in this year&rsquo;s primary contests.</p> <p>The BOE is responding to new legislation championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who signed his controversial reform bill on August 24 after passing it through the Legislature by message of necessity in late June. The bill goes into effect 30 days after Cuomo signs it, thus putting pressure on the BOE to respond.</p> <p>The law enacts restrictions on how independent expenditure campaigns operate; expands what constitutes illegal coordination with a candidate and limits who can work for Super PACs. The legislation also sets new disclosure requirements for nonprofit lobbying groups and issue advocacy groups - for this piece, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics moved on emergency regulations earlier this year.</p> <p>On Thursday, the BOE will consider emergency regulations in the middle of an election season that has already seen major spending by Super PACs, especially in New York City where New Yorkers For Independent Action, a pro-charter school group, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6505-education-focused-super-pac-spends-on-additional-legislative-races" target="_blank">pumped millions of dollars</a> into Democratic primary contests.</p> <p>Board members have expressed concern at previous meetings that the law could be disruptive and counterintuitive given that election season is already well underway.</p> <p>Democratic BOE Chair Douglas Kellner told Gotham Gazette that he isn&rsquo;t convinced the board needs to act on emergency regulations. &ldquo;From my point of view I&rsquo;m not exactly sure why we need emergency regulations that just track the bill, but we will discuss that on Thursday,&rdquo; Kellner said.</p> <p>Republican BOE Chair Peter Kosinski said that the emergency regulations are necessary to keep interested parties informed of the changes to the laws relating to independent expenditures and to put the information in one place.</p> <p>Once the emergency regulations are adopted the public will have 45 days to comment on them.</p> <p>&rdquo;The reality is that the emergency regulation idea is related to the fact that we are headed into the November election and people need information about the changes,&rdquo; said Kosinski. &ldquo;This does not preclude the normal regulation process or any future changes. We will go through the normal process in a couple of months.&rdquo; In other words, any emergency regulations will be temporary and then re-evaluated after the election cycle.</p> <p>Kellner said he also shares concerns about the timing of the bill&rsquo;s enactment given that election season is already in full swing.</p> <p>&ldquo;The board is really between a rock and a hard place,&rdquo; said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. &ldquo;If the Governor wanted the law to be in effect for the election he should have signed it in June.&rdquo; It is unclear why Cuomo waited until August to sign the bill. After unveiling the plan for the legislation during a speech in New York City toward the end of the legislative session, the governor held no public ceremony to sign and promote the bill.</p> <p>Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, said the BOE is being &ldquo;responsible in providing necessary guidance on the law even if it is poorly written and flawed.&rdquo; Dadey added that &ldquo;we shouldn&rsquo;t be changing the rules in the fourth quarter of the game.&rdquo;</p> <p>Speaking <a href="http://www.twcnews.com/nys/capital-region/politics/2016/08/25/cuomo-ethics-bill-follow-new-york-state-albany.html" target="_blank">with reporters</a> in August, Cuomo touted the new regulations. Of not getting everything he wants done on government ethics reform, he also said, &ldquo;Ethics in many ways is like other activities in life. It's an ongoing pursuit.&rdquo;</p> <p>Kosinski, the Republican BOE chair, said that the time for fretting over the implementation timeline is over. &ldquo;People have to deal with that best they can. These emergency regulations are our effort to inform people of the law so that when people look for guidance on the new laws we give them accurate information,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>Advocates had decried the process by which the bill was passed. Cuomo introduced the measure late in session claiming that it was designed to beat back the Supreme Court&rsquo;s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for outside money in candidate campaigns. But the bill also included a section forcing non-profit advocacy groups to disclose more of their donors, and to report to the state, through JCOPE, their various communications about legislation, government officials, regulations, and government-related matters.</p> <p>Like other times he has used them, Cuomo was criticized for his issuance of a message of necessity that preempts the required three-day aging process designed to encourage public review. Legislators received the bill after midnight and voted on it only a few hours later.</p> <p>Cuomo, who generally controls when passed bills come to his desk for signature or veto, <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/08/questions-of-timing-surround-reform-bills-implementation-104652" target="_blank">didn&rsquo;t call the bill up</a> from the Legislature until mid-August <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6476-for-cuomo-passing-ethics-bill-was-urgent-signing-it-is-not" target="_blank">after facing public pressure</a>.</p> <p>The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which is headed by former Cuomo staffer Seth Agata and is controlled by appointees of Cuomo and legislative leaders, moved on emergency regulations in early August. The part of the bill that deals with sources of funding for nonprofits goes into effect 30 days after the bill is signed.</p> <p>The new law sets a definition of what is coordination between independent expenditure campaigns and candidates, and according to Kosinski the law could catch some off guard. &ldquo;There were significant changes going where the state hasn&rsquo;t gone before in detailing coordination, it was really fleshed out and I think people need to be aware of that going forward.&rdquo;</p> <p>Dadey said that he hopes there will be time for the kind of careful and nuanced discussion of the implementation of the law that was denied to the public before the bill was passed.</p> <p>&ldquo;I hope whatever is adopted on Thursday does not lead to greater confusion or conflict with existing law,&rdquo; said Dadey. &ldquo;We had no time to talk about this piece of legislation as a public, I hope more time is taken to discuss it now that it is law.&rdquo;</p> <p>Brandon Muir, executive director of Reclaim New York, an organization focused on government transparency, said that Albany lawmakers waited until the last minute to formulate the bill and then wasted more time signing it. &ldquo;Because they dodged having a timely, open process, we&rsquo;re in for another last-second &ldquo;emergency&rdquo; push that serves political interests and an agenda that New Yorkers didn&rsquo;t ask for,&rdquo; Muir said.</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.</p>
New York Becomes 17th State to Call for Constitutional Overturn of Citizens United 2016-06-16T04:00:00+00:00 2016-06-16T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6400:new-york-becomes-17th-state-to-call-for-constitutional-overturn-of-citizens-united Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/squadron_et_al_demand_democracy.jpg" width="600" height="450" alt="squadron et al demand democracy" /></p> <p>Sen. Squadron and "Demand Democracy" ralliers (photo: @DanielSquadron)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Amid increasing calls for New York to pass bold government ethics reform and minimize the role of money in elections, a bipartisan majority of state lawmakers has taken a symbolic but somewhat significant step in calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution overturning the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case.</p> <p dir="ltr">In <em>Citizens United&nbsp;v. Federal Election Commission</em>, the Supreme Court ruled&nbsp;that corporations and unions can be considered individuals as far as their political contributions are concerned and that restricting their ability to donate to candidates amounted to a violation of their First Amendment right of free speech. That decision opened the floodgates to unlimited amounts of money in elections, including through outside groups supportive of candidates that must not coordinate with official campaigns but can raise and spend unlimited sums. Nearly 80 percent of Americans <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-09-28/bloomberg-poll-americans-want-supreme-court-to-turn-off-political-spending-spigot" target="_blank">agree that</a> the decision needs to be overturned. As of Wednesday, so do 76 New York State Assembly members (of 150 seats) and 32 State Senators (of 63 seats), a bare majority in each house.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lawmakers and advocates announced at a news conference at the Capitol Building in Albany on Wednesday that a majority of members had signed letters to Congress calling for an amendment. The declaration came barely a week after Governor Andrew Cuomo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6384-cuomo-launches-end-of-session-addition-to-stagnant-ethics-agenda" target="_blank">proposed legislation</a> to blunt the effects of Citizens United. In his announcement, the governor called the decision of the Supreme Court’s worst and said, “This decision ignited the equivalent of a campaign nuclear arms race and created a shadow industry in New York — maligning the integrity of the electoral process and drowning out the voice of the people. Citizens United must be reversed.” This week, he said one of his six priorities for the remaining legislative session is moving forward with his legislation to combat Citizens United that further restricts coordination between candidates and supportive “independent” committees, known as Super PACs.</p> <p dir="ltr">New York is the first state with a Republican-controlled chamber to call for an amendment, though only two Republicans supported it. (The last vote that gave the Senate effort a majority came from Democratic Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who was recently elected to the chamber, replacing Republican Dean Skelos, who was removed from office upon a felony corruption conviction.) New York now joins the ranks of 16 other states which have done so through resolutions and ballot initiatives. More than 700 municipalities across the country have also passed resolutions, including 21 in New York.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Wednesday, Assemblymember James Brennan, who led the effort in his chamber, said in a statement, “When we think about the intent behind campaign finance laws, they are supposed to protect our democracy from corruption while preserving the integrity of our elections. Citizens United has done the opposite. By allowing corporations the same rights as individuals, campaigns across the country are being fueled by obscene amounts of money. This has to stop. I call on Congress to do the right thing and pass a constitutional amendment to right this wrong.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In the Senate, there were four letters with largely the same language. Twenty-four Democrats signed one letter. The five-member Independent Democratic Conference signed the same letter, albeit separately. Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins signed one independently. The Republicans, Sen. Phil Boyle and Sen. Kemp Hannon, signed their own version with slightly different language.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There is motion now in Republican-controlled legislatures to support an amendment,” said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, co-director of the Democracy Is For People campaign at Public Citizen, a nonprofit group that led a coalition of advocates calling on state lawmakers to support an amendment. “The state legislature also needs to follow through and pass state reform,” he added.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lawmakers more than agree. “It’s great news that a bipartisan majority of State Senators and Assemblymembers support closing the corporate contribution floodgate Citizens United opened,” said Senator Daniel Squadron, in an emailed statement. Squadron led his colleagues in the Democrats’ letter. “It's critical that legislation also move forward to show New York’s strong support for the voice of everyday Americans in the political process.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Squadron has been one of the leading proponents for closing New York’s infamous “LLC loophole,” which ostensibly allows wealthy individuals and corporations to give unlimited funds to political candidate campaigns through a variety of limited liability companies. Cuomo, a Democrat, has called for closing the loophole and Assembly Democrats have passed such a measure - but the Republican-controlled Senate has balked, defeating the efforts of Squadron and his allies. Good government groups have been calling for closure of the LLC loophole for years, along with a slew of other government ethics and campaign finance reforms in New York, most of which have gone nowhere.</p> <p dir="ltr">Sen. Boyle, a Long Island Republican, echoed the call for reform in the final legislative package of the year, insisting that his Republican colleagues were equally concerned about the influence of big money on elections both at the state and national level. He said it was important that the same restrictions on campaign contributions apply to corporations, unions, and individuals, hitting one of the key sticking points for Republicans: that unions are treated similarly to corporations. Boyle recognizes that signing a letter to Congress is a symbolic move, but one that can have a strong impact. “I think it’s going to energize the debate and hopefully draw the attentions of our federal legislators,” he said in a phone interview. “As much pressure on Washington D.C. as we can exert, the better.”</p> <p>Sen. Stewart-Cousins was also encouraged by two Republicans signing on to the petition and called for additional action on legislative reform. “Addressing the negative impact that the Citizens United decision has had on our democracy is important,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement to Gotham Gazette, “but also we must take action to fix our own glaring campaign finance and ethics issues in New York State such as closing the LLC Loophole which also allows special interests to contribute endless amounts of money. The people of New York deserve an electoral system and government that they can trust.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/squadron_et_al_demand_democracy.jpg" width="600" height="450" alt="squadron et al demand democracy" /></p> <p>Sen. Squadron and "Demand Democracy" ralliers (photo: @DanielSquadron)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Amid increasing calls for New York to pass bold government ethics reform and minimize the role of money in elections, a bipartisan majority of state lawmakers has taken a symbolic but somewhat significant step in calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution overturning the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case.</p> <p dir="ltr">In <em>Citizens United&nbsp;v. Federal Election Commission</em>, the Supreme Court ruled&nbsp;that corporations and unions can be considered individuals as far as their political contributions are concerned and that restricting their ability to donate to candidates amounted to a violation of their First Amendment right of free speech. That decision opened the floodgates to unlimited amounts of money in elections, including through outside groups supportive of candidates that must not coordinate with official campaigns but can raise and spend unlimited sums. Nearly 80 percent of Americans <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-09-28/bloomberg-poll-americans-want-supreme-court-to-turn-off-political-spending-spigot" target="_blank">agree that</a> the decision needs to be overturned. As of Wednesday, so do 76 New York State Assembly members (of 150 seats) and 32 State Senators (of 63 seats), a bare majority in each house.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lawmakers and advocates announced at a news conference at the Capitol Building in Albany on Wednesday that a majority of members had signed letters to Congress calling for an amendment. The declaration came barely a week after Governor Andrew Cuomo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6384-cuomo-launches-end-of-session-addition-to-stagnant-ethics-agenda" target="_blank">proposed legislation</a> to blunt the effects of Citizens United. In his announcement, the governor called the decision of the Supreme Court’s worst and said, “This decision ignited the equivalent of a campaign nuclear arms race and created a shadow industry in New York — maligning the integrity of the electoral process and drowning out the voice of the people. Citizens United must be reversed.” This week, he said one of his six priorities for the remaining legislative session is moving forward with his legislation to combat Citizens United that further restricts coordination between candidates and supportive “independent” committees, known as Super PACs.</p> <p dir="ltr">New York is the first state with a Republican-controlled chamber to call for an amendment, though only two Republicans supported it. (The last vote that gave the Senate effort a majority came from Democratic Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who was recently elected to the chamber, replacing Republican Dean Skelos, who was removed from office upon a felony corruption conviction.) New York now joins the ranks of 16 other states which have done so through resolutions and ballot initiatives. More than 700 municipalities across the country have also passed resolutions, including 21 in New York.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Wednesday, Assemblymember James Brennan, who led the effort in his chamber, said in a statement, “When we think about the intent behind campaign finance laws, they are supposed to protect our democracy from corruption while preserving the integrity of our elections. Citizens United has done the opposite. By allowing corporations the same rights as individuals, campaigns across the country are being fueled by obscene amounts of money. This has to stop. I call on Congress to do the right thing and pass a constitutional amendment to right this wrong.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In the Senate, there were four letters with largely the same language. Twenty-four Democrats signed one letter. The five-member Independent Democratic Conference signed the same letter, albeit separately. Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins signed one independently. The Republicans, Sen. Phil Boyle and Sen. Kemp Hannon, signed their own version with slightly different language.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There is motion now in Republican-controlled legislatures to support an amendment,” said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, co-director of the Democracy Is For People campaign at Public Citizen, a nonprofit group that led a coalition of advocates calling on state lawmakers to support an amendment. “The state legislature also needs to follow through and pass state reform,” he added.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lawmakers more than agree. “It’s great news that a bipartisan majority of State Senators and Assemblymembers support closing the corporate contribution floodgate Citizens United opened,” said Senator Daniel Squadron, in an emailed statement. Squadron led his colleagues in the Democrats’ letter. “It's critical that legislation also move forward to show New York’s strong support for the voice of everyday Americans in the political process.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Squadron has been one of the leading proponents for closing New York’s infamous “LLC loophole,” which ostensibly allows wealthy individuals and corporations to give unlimited funds to political candidate campaigns through a variety of limited liability companies. Cuomo, a Democrat, has called for closing the loophole and Assembly Democrats have passed such a measure - but the Republican-controlled Senate has balked, defeating the efforts of Squadron and his allies. Good government groups have been calling for closure of the LLC loophole for years, along with a slew of other government ethics and campaign finance reforms in New York, most of which have gone nowhere.</p> <p dir="ltr">Sen. Boyle, a Long Island Republican, echoed the call for reform in the final legislative package of the year, insisting that his Republican colleagues were equally concerned about the influence of big money on elections both at the state and national level. He said it was important that the same restrictions on campaign contributions apply to corporations, unions, and individuals, hitting one of the key sticking points for Republicans: that unions are treated similarly to corporations. Boyle recognizes that signing a letter to Congress is a symbolic move, but one that can have a strong impact. “I think it’s going to energize the debate and hopefully draw the attentions of our federal legislators,” he said in a phone interview. “As much pressure on Washington D.C. as we can exert, the better.”</p> <p>Sen. Stewart-Cousins was also encouraged by two Republicans signing on to the petition and called for additional action on legislative reform. “Addressing the negative impact that the Citizens United decision has had on our democracy is important,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement to Gotham Gazette, “but also we must take action to fix our own glaring campaign finance and ethics issues in New York State such as closing the LLC Loophole which also allows special interests to contribute endless amounts of money. The people of New York deserve an electoral system and government that they can trust.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
As Teddy Roosevelt Did, 2016 Candidates Drag the Supreme Court Into Presidential Politics 2016-03-06T21:05:42+00:00 2016-03-06T21:05:42+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6209:as-teddy-roosevelt-did-2016-candidates-drag-the-supreme-court-into-presidential-politics Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/supreme_court.jpg" alt="supreme court" width="600" height="460" /></p> <p>The Supreme Court (Carol Highsmith, <a href="http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2011630083/" target="_blank">via Library of Congress</a>)&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>The Supreme Court is being drawn against its will into the chaotic 2016 presidential campaign.</p> <p>Republicans Donald Trump and Ted Cruz dislike the court's decisions affirming Obamacare and gay marriage. Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernard Sanders object to its Citizens United campaign finance decision. Senate Republicans are threatening to block President Obama's nomination to replace recently deceased justice Antonin Scalia, alleging the appointment would be better left to the next president (a Republican, they hope). Donald Trump was (probably) kidding when he said his sister, Federal Court of Appeals Judge Marianne Trump Barry, would make a credible Supreme Court nominee.</p> <p>In a recent speech, Chief Justice John Roberts lamented that partisan extremism is damaging the public's perception of the court as an unbiased interpreter of the law that is above politics. People too often accuse the court of taking sides in an issue but all it is doing is objectively judging constitutional merits, he said. "We have no policy views on the matter at all," Roberts insisted.</p> <p>But dragging the court into presidential politics has a long history.</p> <p>Theodore Roosevelt was the first presidential candidate to assail the court, during the 1912 contest. TR, president 1901-1909, was attempting to gain the Republican presidential nomination and oust the man who had succeeded him, William H. Taft.</p> <p>On a speech-making tour in the West in the fall of 1910, he attacked big business. The nation was in the midst of a struggle "between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess."</p> <p>He lambasted the federal courts for lagging behind the times and criticized them for "a series of negative decisions to create a sphere in which neither nation nor state has effective control."</p> <p>He cited the 1905 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Lochner vs. New York as a prime example. By a vote of 5 to 4, the court had overturned a New York law regulating the hours and working conditions of bakeshop employees on the basis that it violated the provision of the 14th amendment to the Constitution that no state shall "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." That amendment, passed in 1868, had been intended to protect the civil rights of newly-liberated African-Americans. But the courts had stretched it so that that "liberty of contract" included the right of employers and employees to work for whatever wages and hours both parties agreed to.</p> <p>The courts had used this broad interpretation of the amendment to strike down a number of state regulatory statutes. TR knew the Lochner case well. As governor of New York, 1899-1901, he had enforced the bakeshop regulations. As president, he had watched the case come up through the New York State court system. In 1904, the State Court of Appeals validated the law in a decision written by its Chief Judge, Alton B. Parker, who later that same year secured the Democratic presidential nomination and ran unsuccessfully against TR. He followed the case in the U.S. Supreme Court the next year and read the decision, which was written by still another New Yorker, Justice Rufus Peckham. But the president made no public comment on it.</p> <p>Roosevelt, in 1910, however, declared that the Lochner decision had been particularly egregious because it had ignored the problems that the bakeshop law was intended to address and exercised "the negative power of not permitting the abuse to be remedied." The court had demonstrated that it was "against popular rights" by asserting that "men must not be deprived of their 'liberty' to work under unhealthy conditions....Such decisions, arbitrarily and irresponsibly limiting the power of the people are of course fundamentally hostile to every species of real popular government."</p> <p>Newspaper editorials and political leaders in both parties expressed outrage at the attack on the court.</p> <p>Roosevelt, undeterred, went on to suggest something even more extreme, allowing voters to recall judges. He advanced a campaign platform filled with liberal proposals, including federal regulation of corporations, a national health service, and insurance for the elderly (similar to Social Security two decades later). His attack on the judiciary seemed menacing and his other proposals were ahead of their time. TR "startled all thoughtful men and women and impressed them with the frightful danger which lies in his political ascendancy," said the New York Times. Roosevelt failed to get the Republican nomination and went on to found a new party, the Progressive Party, but was decisively beaten in the 1912 presidential contest.</p> <p>The Lochner decision was influential and was often cited by the courts in striking down state and federal regulatory statutes until 1937, when it was in effect repudiated in the decision of West Coast Hotel vs. Parrish.</p> <p>Supreme Court Justice Rufus Peckham, in his opinion in the 1905 Lochner case, insisted, a little defensively, that "this is not a question of substituting the judgment of the court for that of the legislature." But TR lambasted the court in 1910 for doing just that. John Roberts, at his confirmation hearing to be Chief Justice in 2005, pointedly disagreed with Peckham's assertion a century earlier. Roberts said that the majority in the Lochner decision was "not interpreting the law, they're making the law...substituting their judgment on a policy matter for what the legislature had said."</p> <p>Roberts was probably right. Theodore Roosevelt would certainly agree.</p> <p>But Roberts probably shouldn't be surprised, then, that 2016 presidential candidates are criticizing his court, following the precedent set by TR back in 1910.<br />They believe the court's objectivity has been tarnished.</p> <p>And, also like TR, they think they see an easy opportunity to score political points.</p> <p>***<br />Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne's latest book is <a href="http://www.sunypress.edu/p-6054-the-spirit-of-new-york.aspx" target="_blank">The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State's History</a>, published in 2015 by SUNY Press.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/supreme_court.jpg" alt="supreme court" width="600" height="460" /></p> <p>The Supreme Court (Carol Highsmith, <a href="http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2011630083/" target="_blank">via Library of Congress</a>)&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>The Supreme Court is being drawn against its will into the chaotic 2016 presidential campaign.</p> <p>Republicans Donald Trump and Ted Cruz dislike the court's decisions affirming Obamacare and gay marriage. Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernard Sanders object to its Citizens United campaign finance decision. Senate Republicans are threatening to block President Obama's nomination to replace recently deceased justice Antonin Scalia, alleging the appointment would be better left to the next president (a Republican, they hope). Donald Trump was (probably) kidding when he said his sister, Federal Court of Appeals Judge Marianne Trump Barry, would make a credible Supreme Court nominee.</p> <p>In a recent speech, Chief Justice John Roberts lamented that partisan extremism is damaging the public's perception of the court as an unbiased interpreter of the law that is above politics. People too often accuse the court of taking sides in an issue but all it is doing is objectively judging constitutional merits, he said. "We have no policy views on the matter at all," Roberts insisted.</p> <p>But dragging the court into presidential politics has a long history.</p> <p>Theodore Roosevelt was the first presidential candidate to assail the court, during the 1912 contest. TR, president 1901-1909, was attempting to gain the Republican presidential nomination and oust the man who had succeeded him, William H. Taft.</p> <p>On a speech-making tour in the West in the fall of 1910, he attacked big business. The nation was in the midst of a struggle "between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess."</p> <p>He lambasted the federal courts for lagging behind the times and criticized them for "a series of negative decisions to create a sphere in which neither nation nor state has effective control."</p> <p>He cited the 1905 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Lochner vs. New York as a prime example. By a vote of 5 to 4, the court had overturned a New York law regulating the hours and working conditions of bakeshop employees on the basis that it violated the provision of the 14th amendment to the Constitution that no state shall "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." That amendment, passed in 1868, had been intended to protect the civil rights of newly-liberated African-Americans. But the courts had stretched it so that that "liberty of contract" included the right of employers and employees to work for whatever wages and hours both parties agreed to.</p> <p>The courts had used this broad interpretation of the amendment to strike down a number of state regulatory statutes. TR knew the Lochner case well. As governor of New York, 1899-1901, he had enforced the bakeshop regulations. As president, he had watched the case come up through the New York State court system. In 1904, the State Court of Appeals validated the law in a decision written by its Chief Judge, Alton B. Parker, who later that same year secured the Democratic presidential nomination and ran unsuccessfully against TR. He followed the case in the U.S. Supreme Court the next year and read the decision, which was written by still another New Yorker, Justice Rufus Peckham. But the president made no public comment on it.</p> <p>Roosevelt, in 1910, however, declared that the Lochner decision had been particularly egregious because it had ignored the problems that the bakeshop law was intended to address and exercised "the negative power of not permitting the abuse to be remedied." The court had demonstrated that it was "against popular rights" by asserting that "men must not be deprived of their 'liberty' to work under unhealthy conditions....Such decisions, arbitrarily and irresponsibly limiting the power of the people are of course fundamentally hostile to every species of real popular government."</p> <p>Newspaper editorials and political leaders in both parties expressed outrage at the attack on the court.</p> <p>Roosevelt, undeterred, went on to suggest something even more extreme, allowing voters to recall judges. He advanced a campaign platform filled with liberal proposals, including federal regulation of corporations, a national health service, and insurance for the elderly (similar to Social Security two decades later). His attack on the judiciary seemed menacing and his other proposals were ahead of their time. TR "startled all thoughtful men and women and impressed them with the frightful danger which lies in his political ascendancy," said the New York Times. Roosevelt failed to get the Republican nomination and went on to found a new party, the Progressive Party, but was decisively beaten in the 1912 presidential contest.</p> <p>The Lochner decision was influential and was often cited by the courts in striking down state and federal regulatory statutes until 1937, when it was in effect repudiated in the decision of West Coast Hotel vs. Parrish.</p> <p>Supreme Court Justice Rufus Peckham, in his opinion in the 1905 Lochner case, insisted, a little defensively, that "this is not a question of substituting the judgment of the court for that of the legislature." But TR lambasted the court in 1910 for doing just that. John Roberts, at his confirmation hearing to be Chief Justice in 2005, pointedly disagreed with Peckham's assertion a century earlier. Roberts said that the majority in the Lochner decision was "not interpreting the law, they're making the law...substituting their judgment on a policy matter for what the legislature had said."</p> <p>Roberts was probably right. Theodore Roosevelt would certainly agree.</p> <p>But Roberts probably shouldn't be surprised, then, that 2016 presidential candidates are criticizing his court, following the precedent set by TR back in 1910.<br />They believe the court's objectivity has been tarnished.</p> <p>And, also like TR, they think they see an easy opportunity to score political points.</p> <p>***<br />Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne's latest book is <a href="http://www.sunypress.edu/p-6054-the-spirit-of-new-york.aspx" target="_blank">The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State's History</a>, published in 2015 by SUNY Press.</p> New York One Signature Away from Calling for Overturn of Citizens United 2016-01-11T18:11:32+00:00 2016-01-11T18:11:32+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6080:new-york-one-signature-away-from-calling-for-overturn-of-citizens-united kfan <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/nys.jpg" alt="nys" height="298" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">(photo: nysenate.gov)</p> <hr /> <p>In a landmark year for corruption in the state legislature, 2015 saw the arrest and conviction of two of the most powerful political leaders in New York. A crescendo of voices across the state -- from good government watchdogs to lawmakers -- expressed outrage and demanded stronger ethics laws and campaign finance reforms. In one sense, Albany now has the opportunity to put its money where its mouth is -- and all it needs is one signature. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">New York is one signatory away from becoming the 17th state in the country to call for a constitutional amendment to negate the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case, which gave entities such as corporations and unions the same rights as individuals in contributing to electoral campaigns.</p> <p dir="ltr">A successful bipartisan appeal for a federal constitutional amendment in the State Assembly has yet to be replicated by the State Senate, where 31 senators -- one short of a majority -- support overturning Citizens United to minimize the role of money in politics. While agreement by a majority of each house from New York would only be advisory, like the other states that have reached consensus, a groundswell for negating Citizens United could influence Congress.</p> <p dir="ltr">"As we've seen again and again, Citizens United has opened the floodgate to unchecked and often opaque corporate political contributions, muscling real people out of the political process,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron, a Brooklyn Democrat, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. Squadron is leading the effort among the Senate Democratic Conference and has 23 co-signers on <a href="http://www.ny4democracy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/NY-Senate-Citizens-United-Constitutional-Amendment-Letter-to-Congress.pdf" target="_blank">a letter</a> addressed to the United States Congress which calls for the constitutional amendment.</p> <p dir="ltr">(Squadron also said that the state legislature should support his Corporate Political Activity Accountability to Shareholders Act, which would increase transparency and accountability.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Senators Ruben Diaz Sr. and Simcha Felder are the only Democrats who have not joined their colleagues on the letter. The five members of the Independent Democratic Conference together signed an identical version of Squadron’s letter while Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins independently wrote to members of Congress. (Felder is elected as a Democrat but caucuses with Republicans in the Senate, and Diaz Sr. is often difficult to pin down ideologically.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Sen. Stewart-Cousins, in her missive, said that the independent contributions made possible by Citizens United “represent a deliberate effort to unfairly influence the electorate and empower a small group of individuals and corporations. Elected officials are becoming more beholden to the interests facilitating these outside funds while the public’s trust in our democracy erodes.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Stewart-Cousins is adamant about reforming the state’s campaign finance system and believes that Senate Democrats have led the fight on many fronts. She lays blame with the members on the other side of the aisle. “We need to restore the public’s trust in state government and that will only happen when the Senate Republicans agree to listen to the voters and take meaningful steps to clean up Albany,” she said in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the Democrats who support overturning Citizens United total 29 votes, only 2 Republican state senators have supported the effort -- Senators Phil Boyle and Kemp Hannon, albeit in language different from the Democrats’ letters (it, for example, <a href="http://www.citizen.org/documents/citizens-united-senator-boyle-sign-on-letter.pdf" target="_blank">decries</a> the massive potential outside spending to support Hillary Clinton's presidential bid). Sen. Boyle, who circulated his letter among his colleagues, refused to comment for this article.</p> <p dir="ltr">Reluctance of New York Republicans to join the effort comes as a growing number of voters, including Republicans, oppose Citizens United. In a <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-09-28/bloomberg-poll-americans-want-supreme-court-to-turn-off-political-spending-spigot">Bloomberg poll</a> from September, 78 percent of respondents said they wanted the decision overturned.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We’re at a crossroads in the movement where Democrats who hadn’t signed on are signing on, and where Republican voters are strongly in favor of a constitutional amendment, but we’re working to make that transition with Republican legislators,” said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, co-director of the Democracy Is For People campaign at Public Citizen, a nonprofit advocacy group that has been garnering a coalition to lobby state legislators for their support in the matter.</p> <p dir="ltr">Senior attorney Gene Russianoff, from the New York Public Interest Research Group, is not surprised by the Republican legislators’ lack of support. Some of these state senators, he said, “feel teflon-proofed” and he applauded those who signed the petition. “Citizens United is the right target to fight the influence of money and political interests,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">For good government groups like NYPIRG and Citizens Union of the City of New York, the Supreme Court’s decision to treat corporations as individuals in campaign finance has wreaked untold havoc on elections.</p> <p dir="ltr">“New York State is severely hampered by federal court decisions in terms of how it can address the corrosive role of money in politics,” said Rachael Fauss, director of public policy, Citizens Union. “Action by the New York State Legislature would help drive attention to this national problem, and put New York on the record as being against campaign money being considered free speech.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whom many reformers look to be more of a leader on campaign finance reform in New York, recently made clear he thinks that as long Citizens United is around, his hands are largely tied. In an <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/governor-cuomo-says-its-time-pardon-one-time-youth-offenders/">interview</a> with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer on Dec. 21, the governor promised that he will advocate for campaign finance reform in 2016, but conceded that he could only do so much.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If you say, 'Well, money influences,' then forget it, because [with] Citizens United you're not going to get the money out of the system until the federal government changes the court or the law or both,” he said. He was also dismissive of New York City’s public campaign financing system, calling it a “mockery” that independent committees can donate large sums of money to candidates as a result of Citizens United.</p> <p dir="ltr">Advocates and reform-minded legislators continue to push Cuomo to call for a statewide public campaign finance system, which he has given lukewarm support for in the past.</p> <p dir="ltr">Just a few hours after Cuomo’s Dec. 21 WNYC remarks, Mayor Bill de Blasio held a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/966-15/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-hosts-media-roundtable-discuss-mid-term-accomplishments" target="_blank">roundtable</a> with members &nbsp;of the news media at which he also said passing a constitutional amendment was an “imperative” without which “we’re in an environment where a lot of very wealthy, powerful people will use their money to reinforce the status quo.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In an <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/opinion/who-will-heed-the-call/34136/" target="_blank">editorial</a> on Dec. 22, a day after Cuomo’s remarks on WNYC, the Albany Times Union called on the remaining state senators to take the bold step and join the growing call for an amendment. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">On the surface, New York calling for a constitutional amendment may be symbolic in the absence of Congressional action. But, according to Common Cause NY executive director Susan Lerner, “In this instance, symbolism is especially potent.” She believes that owing to New York’s large congressional delegation, even symbolic measures carry significant weight.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Remember, New York is a donor state,” she said, referring to New York’s influence on elections all over the country. “Everybody running for office comes to New York for campaign contributions. When New York elected officials say the system has gotten out of control, it’s particularly applicable.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/samarkhurshid" target="_blank">@samarkhurshid</a> &nbsp; &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p>Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/nys.jpg" alt="nys" height="298" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">(photo: nysenate.gov)</p> <hr /> <p>In a landmark year for corruption in the state legislature, 2015 saw the arrest and conviction of two of the most powerful political leaders in New York. A crescendo of voices across the state -- from good government watchdogs to lawmakers -- expressed outrage and demanded stronger ethics laws and campaign finance reforms. In one sense, Albany now has the opportunity to put its money where its mouth is -- and all it needs is one signature. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">New York is one signatory away from becoming the 17th state in the country to call for a constitutional amendment to negate the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case, which gave entities such as corporations and unions the same rights as individuals in contributing to electoral campaigns.</p> <p dir="ltr">A successful bipartisan appeal for a federal constitutional amendment in the State Assembly has yet to be replicated by the State Senate, where 31 senators -- one short of a majority -- support overturning Citizens United to minimize the role of money in politics. While agreement by a majority of each house from New York would only be advisory, like the other states that have reached consensus, a groundswell for negating Citizens United could influence Congress.</p> <p dir="ltr">"As we've seen again and again, Citizens United has opened the floodgate to unchecked and often opaque corporate political contributions, muscling real people out of the political process,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron, a Brooklyn Democrat, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. Squadron is leading the effort among the Senate Democratic Conference and has 23 co-signers on <a href="http://www.ny4democracy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/NY-Senate-Citizens-United-Constitutional-Amendment-Letter-to-Congress.pdf" target="_blank">a letter</a> addressed to the United States Congress which calls for the constitutional amendment.</p> <p dir="ltr">(Squadron also said that the state legislature should support his Corporate Political Activity Accountability to Shareholders Act, which would increase transparency and accountability.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Senators Ruben Diaz Sr. and Simcha Felder are the only Democrats who have not joined their colleagues on the letter. The five members of the Independent Democratic Conference together signed an identical version of Squadron’s letter while Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins independently wrote to members of Congress. (Felder is elected as a Democrat but caucuses with Republicans in the Senate, and Diaz Sr. is often difficult to pin down ideologically.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Sen. Stewart-Cousins, in her missive, said that the independent contributions made possible by Citizens United “represent a deliberate effort to unfairly influence the electorate and empower a small group of individuals and corporations. Elected officials are becoming more beholden to the interests facilitating these outside funds while the public’s trust in our democracy erodes.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Stewart-Cousins is adamant about reforming the state’s campaign finance system and believes that Senate Democrats have led the fight on many fronts. She lays blame with the members on the other side of the aisle. “We need to restore the public’s trust in state government and that will only happen when the Senate Republicans agree to listen to the voters and take meaningful steps to clean up Albany,” she said in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the Democrats who support overturning Citizens United total 29 votes, only 2 Republican state senators have supported the effort -- Senators Phil Boyle and Kemp Hannon, albeit in language different from the Democrats’ letters (it, for example, <a href="http://www.citizen.org/documents/citizens-united-senator-boyle-sign-on-letter.pdf" target="_blank">decries</a> the massive potential outside spending to support Hillary Clinton's presidential bid). Sen. Boyle, who circulated his letter among his colleagues, refused to comment for this article.</p> <p dir="ltr">Reluctance of New York Republicans to join the effort comes as a growing number of voters, including Republicans, oppose Citizens United. In a <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-09-28/bloomberg-poll-americans-want-supreme-court-to-turn-off-political-spending-spigot">Bloomberg poll</a> from September, 78 percent of respondents said they wanted the decision overturned.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We’re at a crossroads in the movement where Democrats who hadn’t signed on are signing on, and where Republican voters are strongly in favor of a constitutional amendment, but we’re working to make that transition with Republican legislators,” said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, co-director of the Democracy Is For People campaign at Public Citizen, a nonprofit advocacy group that has been garnering a coalition to lobby state legislators for their support in the matter.</p> <p dir="ltr">Senior attorney Gene Russianoff, from the New York Public Interest Research Group, is not surprised by the Republican legislators’ lack of support. Some of these state senators, he said, “feel teflon-proofed” and he applauded those who signed the petition. “Citizens United is the right target to fight the influence of money and political interests,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">For good government groups like NYPIRG and Citizens Union of the City of New York, the Supreme Court’s decision to treat corporations as individuals in campaign finance has wreaked untold havoc on elections.</p> <p dir="ltr">“New York State is severely hampered by federal court decisions in terms of how it can address the corrosive role of money in politics,” said Rachael Fauss, director of public policy, Citizens Union. “Action by the New York State Legislature would help drive attention to this national problem, and put New York on the record as being against campaign money being considered free speech.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whom many reformers look to be more of a leader on campaign finance reform in New York, recently made clear he thinks that as long Citizens United is around, his hands are largely tied. In an <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/governor-cuomo-says-its-time-pardon-one-time-youth-offenders/">interview</a> with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer on Dec. 21, the governor promised that he will advocate for campaign finance reform in 2016, but conceded that he could only do so much.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If you say, 'Well, money influences,' then forget it, because [with] Citizens United you're not going to get the money out of the system until the federal government changes the court or the law or both,” he said. He was also dismissive of New York City’s public campaign financing system, calling it a “mockery” that independent committees can donate large sums of money to candidates as a result of Citizens United.</p> <p dir="ltr">Advocates and reform-minded legislators continue to push Cuomo to call for a statewide public campaign finance system, which he has given lukewarm support for in the past.</p> <p dir="ltr">Just a few hours after Cuomo’s Dec. 21 WNYC remarks, Mayor Bill de Blasio held a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/966-15/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-hosts-media-roundtable-discuss-mid-term-accomplishments" target="_blank">roundtable</a> with members &nbsp;of the news media at which he also said passing a constitutional amendment was an “imperative” without which “we’re in an environment where a lot of very wealthy, powerful people will use their money to reinforce the status quo.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In an <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/opinion/who-will-heed-the-call/34136/" target="_blank">editorial</a> on Dec. 22, a day after Cuomo’s remarks on WNYC, the Albany Times Union called on the remaining state senators to take the bold step and join the growing call for an amendment. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">On the surface, New York calling for a constitutional amendment may be symbolic in the absence of Congressional action. But, according to Common Cause NY executive director Susan Lerner, “In this instance, symbolism is especially potent.” She believes that owing to New York’s large congressional delegation, even symbolic measures carry significant weight.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Remember, New York is a donor state,” she said, referring to New York’s influence on elections all over the country. “Everybody running for office comes to New York for campaign contributions. When New York elected officials say the system has gotten out of control, it’s particularly applicable.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/samarkhurshid" target="_blank">@samarkhurshid</a> &nbsp; &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p>Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.</p> Resolution Calls for Constitutional Amendment Negating Citizens United 2015-05-14T14:54:06+00:00 2015-05-14T14:54:06+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5725:resolution-calls-for-constitutional-amendment-negating-citizens-united Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/kallos_ops_hearing.jpg" alt="kallos" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Council Member Ben Kallos (photo: William Alatriste)</span></p> <hr /> <p>City Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the governmental operations committee, will introduce a resolution at Thursday’s full-body Stated Meeting calling on members of the United States Congress to commit to a constitutional amendment that would limit independent expenditures in election campaigns. It is a move aimed at reducing the “dark money” spent during political campaigns and to counteract the Supreme Court’s infamous Citizens United ruling.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/kallos_ops_hearing.jpg" alt="kallos" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Council Member Ben Kallos (photo: William Alatriste)</span></p> <hr /> <p>City Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the governmental operations committee, will introduce a resolution at Thursday’s full-body Stated Meeting calling on members of the United States Congress to commit to a constitutional amendment that would limit independent expenditures in election campaigns. It is a move aimed at reducing the “dark money” spent during political campaigns and to counteract the Supreme Court’s infamous Citizens United ruling.</p>