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Taxpayers shouldn’t have to fund political class

By Brian Sampson

Recent scandals have rocked state government and justifiably outraged taxpayers. Unfortunately, well-funded special interests are arguing that the appropriate response to these scandals is for hard-working New York taxpayers to give politicians even more money.

These special interests are trying to convince us that publicly financed campaigns will make everything better. Taxpayers and hardworking small business owners aren’t buying it.

The money we earn shouldn’t be taken to pay for political campaigns. Why should we be forced to fund ideas or candidates we don’t support? Why should we foot the bill for campaign consultants, robo-calls and political attack ads against people we do support?

Here is how it would work. A local senator gets a campaign contributor to give her $100. Then taxpayers are forced to hand over $600 to that senator’s campaign. Not a bad deal for the senator right? But it’s a lousy deal for taxpayers.

It’s called a “6 to 1 match”, and it’s at the very heart of the “reform” known as taxpayer-funded political campaigns. It’s one of the worst ideas to come out of Albany in decades.

Throughout upstate, our schools are feeling the budget crunch. Our roads and bridges are in need of repair and our local governments are cutting back on vital services. Meanwhile, New York continues to have some of the highest taxes in the nation, as well as an unfavorable business climate.

Given all of that, the idea that Albany would launch a massive new spending program on political campaigns is completely outrageous.

We have consistently led the effort to create a better climate for job opportunities upstate. In this instance, we don’t even know what the program will cost. Whether it will cost $20 million or $200 million, it’s too much. We simply can’t afford it. We have no doubt that those costs would balloon every few years – if politicians say a 6-to-1 match is good, then why not an 8-to-1, or 12-to-1 match?

But recent debates and arguments on the projected costs of a new public campaign finance system actually miss the larger point: Having taxpayers pay for political campaigns is simply bad public policy.

Giving politicians even more money, especially our money, is equivalent to welfare for the political class. So let’s be clear on this subject: Not one penny of our money should be wasted on political campaigns.

Brian Sampson is executive director of Unshackle Upstate.