Another Voice: Campaign finance reform will restore trust in government - The Buffalo News
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Another Voice: Campaign finance reform will restore trust in government

By Andrew M. Cuomo

Today, New Yorkers are skeptical of the future. The middle class has become economically stagnant and income inequality continues to grow. As if this were not bad enough, New Yorkers feel their ability to influence their government has been weakened. They are not wrong.

Political campaigns and elections have become dominated by the super wealthy and the ultra-powerful, and unless you make a significant contribution, your voice is no more than a whisper. In short: Money talks – and big money talks louder.

The Supreme Court case Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission in 2010 did more to tilt the scales of justice in favor of the top one percent than any decision in modern political history. By prohibiting government from restricting people and corporations from creating unlimited independent expenditure campaigns capable of funneling billions of dollars into election cycles, this decision undid a century’s worth of campaign finance reform.

To end the plague of disenfranchisement brought about by this verdict, I am advancing first-in-the-nation legislation that would close glaring loopholes in state law and prevent these so-called “independent” groups from coordinating with the candidates they support.

This much is clear: The ability of dark money and mega-donors to sway New York’s elections and influence electoral outcomes must be changed.

Since 2010, super PACs have spent more than a billion dollars on elections. Five years ago, there were 80 of these outside groups registered with the Federal Election Commission. Today, there are over 800.

In New York, spending by independent committees in 2014 totaled $15 million..

In its noblest of moments, the Supreme Court has been a champion of equality and democracy. With Citizens United, it destroyed an individual’s right to participate in the political process.

To right this wrong, my counsel has issued an opinion that spells out permissible conduct for these groups – so there are no ambiguities in state law. Together with my legislation, these protections institute the strictest anti-coordination measures in the country.

A candidate wants to form his or her own PAC? Family members want to create an independent expenditure committee to support their relative’s run for office? A candidate’s advisers suggest that the group run an advertisement? Not in New York.

I call on the State Legislature to join me in restoring the people’s trust in government. The Senate and Assembly can either reform or perpetuate the status quo. They should rise to the occasion and pass this bill. Because in New York, democracy rules and the voice of the people matters.

Andrew M. Cuomo is governor of New York.

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