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Push Is On For NY Fair Elections

Picture of money

Proponents of fair elections, particularly in New York, argue that ordinary citizens are denied a real chance at being heard in an election because running for office is expensive and the average citizen is unable contribute substantial sums of money to help fund any given campaign.

Supporters say a fair elections law would restore trust in government by giving prospective candidates for office access to public funding. For example: for each dollar raised, a taxpayer-financed public fund would match that dollar with six dollars.

The New York state legislature is currently reviewing an Assembly bill that would enact the "2013 Fair Elections Act." Modeled after New York City's system, the bill has strong support from Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and support has grown since the recent arrests of elected officials throughout the state, including a former Senate Majority leader.
New York State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long says expectations are flawed. The whole idea of "fairness" and equal opportunity may be a moot point: when political action committees or PACs become interested in a candidate, they can change the outcome, as many argue they did in November’s 46th District Senate race that pitted Republican Assemblyman George Amedore against Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk.

Friends of Democracy and another super PAC called Protect Our Democracy put $250,000 each into the 46th Senate race, in support of Tkaczyk, who was not expected to beat Amedore in the newly-drawn district but eventually won a razor-thin recount.

Mark Emanatian is the Capital District Organizer for Citizen Action of New York: he points out PACS would not be affected by the proposed Fair Elections Act. Mike Long of the Conservative Party believes Senator Malcolm Smith, before his arrest, was positioning himself to take advantage of New York City's Fair Elections Law.

Since the arrests of Smith and other public officials this month, the coalition known as Fair Elections For New York reportedly has raised close to $1 million dollars to finance new advertising, which could begin running as early as next week. Those tied to the coalition tell the Daily News there were serious discussions about having the ads target New York State Senate co-leader Jeffrey Klein and his group of breakaway Democrats, known as the Independent Democratic Conference, but they backed off Sunday evening, deciding instead to focus on the entire Senate.

There is a rally scheduled for May 29 in Albany to convince lawmakers to draft and pass a fair elections bill.  Organizing for Action -- the tax-exempt organization launched in January to advocate for President Barack Obama's agenda -- joined the New York Fair Elections coalition at the end of March.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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