The Campaign Finance Reform Commission, which meets Tuesday in Buffalo, has two issues of vital importance for New York State politics before it: enacting a system of public campaign financing and potentially banning the process known as electoral fusion. The Green Party believes these questions are linked with the larger question of how to democratize elections in New York.
The most pressing concern is the enactment of a system of full public campaign financing. This is crucial not just because of the corruption of New York State politics caused by campaign donations and the parade of elected officials indicted and removed from office because of this. By equating money with free speech we have privileged the wealthy and special interests that are able to donate more “speech” to candidates and parties.
Full public campaign financing would also increase the competitiveness of elections, provide third parties and challengers a more level playing field, and give elected officials and candidates more time to interact with constituents rather than campaign donors.
The commission should look to Arizona and Maine’s “Clean Money, Clean Elections” grants-based systems of full public campaign financing. Candidates that opt-in to the program also choose to forgo private donations, except for a small number of private $5 in-district qualifying contributions. Candidates that raise the requisite number of qualifying contributions are given a competitive lump-sum grant to run their campaign.
The banning of electoral fusion is also on the commission’s agenda. Fusion is part of an anti-democratic culture of patronage in New York State politics, where ballot lines are often for sale to the highest bidder. Fusion allows for the theft of ballot lines via the process known as Opportunity-To-Ballot, leads to candidates on party lines that do not support the political platform of that party or the party’s membership, and parties that mostly campaign for candidates in the primaries of other parties. We recommend the Commission ban fusion.
Co-chairman Green Party of New York