Editor's note: The author is an activist and Loudonville resident working with MoveOn.org and has a longtime interest in public campaign funding.
In response to the recent Spotlight editorial concerning New York state corruption scandals, the many coalitions of citizens that support campaign finance reform (with a central focus on public funding of elections) correctly maintain that this is the only way to combat the corrupt system that allows and encouraged the crimes of 27 legislators, arrested, indicted or forced to resign over the past 12 years. This may be just the tip of the “pay-to-play” iceberg, threatening to sink our democracy.
The results of this nonfunctioning system are defunded education, unfair taxes, an impoverishing minimum wage, continued costly privatization of essential public services and threats to our environmental and personal health from ill-conceived energy extraction plans lacking proper safety evaluations. Think fracking.
Trust in our government continues to evaporate rapidly, accelerated by the lack of accountability and transparency. Large donations by the wealthy and corporations bring them big pay backs, preventing our government from functioning for ordinary people, working instead for those with expensive lobbyists and deep pockets. These nifty investments are rewarded with special rewards, often up by up to 100-to-1.
Public funding of elections is not simply an “interesting idea” but it already works well in Arizona, Maine and Connecticut, as well as in many cities and towns, for both candidates and voters, allowing those elected to serve and spend time with their constituents rather than dialing for dollars and catering to special interests.
This voluntary participation proposal, working well in New York City, allows candidates raising a certain number of small donations to demonstrate their viability in their own communities, then are given public matching funds (6-to-1) to run in primary and in the general election, if they commit to using no private money, including their own.