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Presentation highlights opponents of push for higher minimum wage

Leaders from community, faith-based and labor organizations gathered Monday in support of an increase in the minimum wage and the campaign for Fair Elections in New York State, which would diminish elected leaders' reliance on corporate campaign contributions.

The presentation was held at Lincoln United Methodist Church on Masten Avenue.

The group released research compiling campaign contributions to state senators and political committees by corporations, organizations and lobbyists who have advocated against an increase in the minimum wage.

The contributions totaled $399,436 since January 2010.

A Fair Elections system is important because of the "massive influence" that campaign contributors such as corporations and lobbyists have over public policy decisions, supporters said. Such a law would leave candidates to work on behalf of their constituents' interests.

"This should be a No. 1 priority as far as legislation is concerned. Candidates and elected officials should fight for the 99 percent grassroots people and not for big corporations," said Chy'Nel Lee, an East Side resident and mother of two grade school students in Buffalo Public Schools.

"The current minimum wage is inadequate for working families trying to make ends meet in Buffalo," she added. "It's a shame we're at this point. We shouldn't still be working on a minimum wage. Passing Fair Elections and raising the minimum wage will have an immediate positive impact by helping struggling families keep up with rising costs."

The top donors were the New York Association of Convenience Stores, which contributed $133,613; the Retail Council of New York State, $59,598; Walmart, $41,875; Anheuser Busch, $33,600; and Walgreens, $25,375.

Of the $399,436 contributed to state senators' campaigns and party committees by opponents of a minimum wage increase, 71 percent -- or $283,356 -- was received by Republicans and Republican-affiliated committees. Democrats received $116,080 from those donors.

*Party committees received the following amounts:

*State Republican housekeeping committee -- $75,000.

*Democratic Senate Campaign Committee housekeeping account -- $50,936.

*Senate Republican Campaign Committee housekeeping account -- $45,691.

*Senate Republican Campaign Committee -- $23,950.

*Democratic Senate Campaign Committee -- $22,594.

The Western New York State Senate delegation received a total of $29,300, including $10,150 for Patrick M. Gallivan, R-Elma; $7,000 for Michael F. Nozzolio, R-Fayette; $6,250 for George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane; $4,150 for Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo; $1,650 for Michael H. Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst; and $100 for Timothy Kennedy, D-Buffalo.

The organizations represented at Monday's announcement included Citizen Action of New York, Coalition for Economic Justice, People United for Sustainable Housing and Working Families Party.