Scrubbing Dirty Politics Clean
November 9th, 2007

Sure, some might argue that a push for campaign finance reform started the battle between Gov. Elliot Spitzer and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno. But that doesn’t mean a nationwide campaign next week for publicly funded elections, or “Clean Elections,” should skip over New York.

“We can see it more clearly here than in other states as to how campaign contributions affect the decisions our leaders make,” said Jessica Wisneski of Citizen Action, who is leading the statewide effort here. In New York, a candidate running for an Assembly seat can raise almost twice as much as a candidate for United States Senate.

Citizen Action sees Clean Elections as the way to insulate officials from the influence of donations from special interests. The proposal would provide full public funding for candidates who choose to refuse private contributions and agree to spending limits. To qualify, they would need to raise a certain number of $5 contributions from their prospective constituents.

Many officials in Albany already support the idea. The governor voiced support for Clean Elections shortly after being elected, and the Democratic controlled Assembly has passed bills to enact Clean Elections versions of public funding. Even the Democratic minority in the Senate has stood behind the concept. But the proposals usually fall on deaf ears within the Republican Majority in the state Senate, dooming its prospects, leading Wisneski to view them as the only hurdle left.

“The Senate Republicans don’t want to do anything about it, so we say, ‘Fine, we’ll see you in the 2008 elections.’ If you ask New Yorker’s whether they they think money influences politics, of course they’re going to say yes,” she said. (A poll by Siena College’s Research Institute showed just over half of New Yorkers support public financing.)

As he’s made well known, Bruno certainly doesn’t think it’s a priority among voters.

By on November 9, 2007, 3:55 pm
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