BACKGROUND: Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature are considering adopting New York City’s public financing system statewide to limit the influence of money in politics. Public financing evens the political playing field, enabling candidates to focus on the issues and run competitive campaigns without relying largely on a small number of wealthy contributors.
Governor Andrew Cuomo pledged in his State of the State address in January to introduce legislation during the 2013 legislative session to create a public funding option for New York state elections based on the New York City model and has reiterated that pledge again this year. The NYC model provides money to candidates who accept expenditure limits and enhanced disclosure rules. Clean money campaign financing systems, including voluntary public financing of elections, already exist in a number of states, but what makes the NYC model so successful is the “multiple match”—a feature that boosts the impact of small donations by matching up to $175 of each contribution at a six-to-one ratio.
On Tuesday, May 7, 2013, the Assembly passed the 2013 Fair Elections Act by a 88-50 margin. The bill would implement the NYC model statewide.
JEWISH VALUES: Jewish tradition recognizes the distorting effect that money can have on a leader’s ability to govern fairly. Deuteronomy 16 commands, "You shall not judge unfairly: you shall know no partiality; you shall not take gifts, for gifts blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just.” Talmud Tractate Kethuboth notes, “As soon as a man receives a gift from another he becomes so well disposed towards him that he becomes like his own person, and no man sees himself in the wrong.” In a modern democracy, it is still necessary for elected officials to be accountable to all citizens, not just wealthy and powerful moneyed interests.
TAKE ACTION Urge your legislators to make the Fair Elections plan a priority next year. For more information, please contact Legislative Associate Molly Benoit.