Green Party of New York State Opposes Cuomo’s Election Proposals to Empower the 1%
For Immediate Release: June 16, 2013
For More Info: Howie Hawkins, 315 425-1019
The Green Party of NY State said today that the election reform package proposed by Governor Cuomo does not provide for fair elections in NYS.
“Governor Cuomo’s campaign finance reform proposals serve the interests of the 1% rather than embracing democracy for the 99%. It offers the illusion of change as cover for the status quo of buying candidates with private campaign contributions,” stated Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for governor in 2010.
Greens said that Cuomo’s proposal for campaigns financed by limited public matching funds and unlimited private funds closely mirrors the Fai r Elections Act (A4980C-2013), sponsored by Speaker Sheldon Silver and passed by the Assembly and delivered to the Senate on May 7.
The Green Party has been critical of the partial public campaign finance model because special interest private money continues to dominate election financing while tacking on a limited amount public funds to supplement the massive private contributions. The Greens have pointed to the fundraising for the current NYC Mayoral race as evidence that large contributors still dominate the process under a 6-to-1 public funds matching system.
Worse, the Greens say, is that Cuomo’s proposal, like the Silver bill, places no limits on private spending by candidates who receive public matching funds. These proposals are not like the NYC matching funds system as proponents often claim, the Greens said. The NYC system limits the spending of private campaign donations by candidates who receive public matching funds. The Cuomo and Silver proposals have no such limits.
“The cesspool of pay-to-play influence peddling by wealthy private donors remains alive and well under the proposals of Cuomo and Sliver. These phony reforms throw good public money after bad private money. They provide camouflage for the same old corrupt system of two entrenched corporate parties financed by legalized bribes,” Hawkins said.
The Greens said they view Cuomo’s proposal as an empty gesture to the public, which polls show overwhelmingly favors public financing of elections. If Cuomo were serious, they say, he would not have waited until the last two weeks of the session to detail his proposal.
The Greens prefer a Clean Money system of full public financing that would eliminate the role of private contributions altogether. In the Clean Money states of Arizona and Maine, candidates qualify f or equal public campaign grants by raising a reasonable number of $5 contributions from voters in their district to demonstrate support. The grant is sufficient to get the candidate’s message to all voters. Candidates who opt for public money may not raise and spend private money. They only use “clean” public money.
“Clean Money would provide a level playing field. Each qualified candidate would have the same campaign budget. Cuomo’s proposal would penalize an upstart progressive, pro-worker, pro-environment party like the Green Party,” said Hawkins, who finished third out of seven candidates in the last gubernatorial election.
Cuomo’s proposal would restrict contributions to Green Party candidates during primaries through a formula based on the number of enrolled members in the party. For example, contributions to a Green gubernatorial candidate like Hawkins would be limited to $104, while major party candidates could receive $6,000 contributions.
The high qualifying fundraising thresholds to qualify for matching funds, the Greens said, make it a supplementary funding system for major party incumbents, not a way to open up competition from third party candidates. The Greens said the $650,000 qualifying threshold for a gubernatorial candidate has never been raised by any third party gubernatorial candidate in New York history. They said billionaire Tom Golisano’s three Independence Party campaigns do not count because he did not raise his campaign funds but spent his own money.
The Greens also noted that the Cuomo and Silver proposals were weaker than the proposal of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), whose matching funds system would also eliminate the parties’ soft money “housekeeping accounts” that serve as campaign slush funds for party bosses, ban corporate donations, and set all contribution limits to candidates at th e federal limit of $2,600. The Greens said they don’t think the IDC proposal is serious because the IDC is unwilling to jeopardize its governing coalition in the Senate with the Republicans over a public matching funds system, which the Republicans flatly oppose.
The Greens noted that the Cuomo proposal fails to lower the excessive contribution limits for most races. The major exception is a reduction in the contribution limits for Gubernatorial candidates. However, this $6000 limit would still be considerably higher than the $2600 limit for federal races.
Both the Cuomo and Silver bills will not affect the 2014 gubernatorial race, for which Cuomo had already amassed $22.5 million as of January 2013 under the current contribution limit of $60,800. Cuomo has a June 25 fundraiser planned to coincide with the end of the legislative session at the Plaza Hotel in New York City where tickets range for $1,000 to $50,000.
The Green Party did give the Governor credit for eliminating in his proposal the Limited Liability Company (LLC) loophole, a favorite of big real estate interests and Cuomo’s fundraising to date. The LLC loophole allows real estate interests to organize each building they own as a separate LLC and use each building as a separate contribution limit.
The $25,000 limit on contributions to party committees was still excessive, the Greens said, particularly because the same entity can give that amount to the party committees of the state parties and also to each of their 62 county committees.
Cuomo’s proposal fails to strengthen the ability of the Attorney General’s office to prosecute violators of campaign finance laws – a power that Cuomo sought when he was the AG.
The Greens also praised Cuomo’s support for long-standing calls to curb the abuse of campaign funds for personal use.
The Greens said these limited good reforms do not compensate for the fact that Cuomo’s proposal remains one of limited public funding coupled to unlimited private funding.
Hawkins said these good reforms should be rolled into a Clean Money bill. Clean Money bills had been submitted in several consecutive legislative sessions previous to the current session. The absence of a Clean Money bill in the current session “is further evidence of the complete and total capture of both major parties by the 1%,” Hawkins said.