Silver Weighs In On Disclosure, Election Reform
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is staking out some early territory for 2013 in two areas that are particularly high profile at the moment and also popular with good government reformers: Campaign finance and election reform.
The powerful Manhattan Democrat announced in a press release this afternoon that he has introduced a pair of bills to institute early voting in New York and require independent expenditures to be subject to state disclosure rules.
It’s interesting Silver has chosen to be pro-active here, especially since Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said campaign finance reform will be a top priority for him next year, but has yet to put forward any proposals.
Silver notably did not choose to highlight public campaign finance reform, which has generated a lot of support on the left (Citizen Action, Working Families Party, Strong Economy for All etc), or a reduction of contribution limits for regular candidate committees or PACs.
The speaker said these two bills, “will encourage voter access and participation and help create a more informed electorate.”
“These proposals would give New York’s voters a far stronger voice and help level the playing field in the electoral process,” Silver continued.
“Our elections must be fair, open, honest and accessible, and encourage as many citizens to vote as possible.”
“These measures are common sense reforms and I hope the Senate and Governor will join us in making our democracy as accessible as possible.”
Silver’s first bill, co-sponsored by Assembly Election Law Committee Chairman Mike Cusick, a Staten Island Democrat, would allow New Yorkers to vote at designated locations beginning 14 days prior to any general election and seven days prior to any primary or special election.
Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day during the early voting period, including Saturdays and Sundays, and ballots cast during the early voting period would be counted at the close of the polls on Election Day and included in the election night tally.
Thirty-two other states, including Florida and Ohio, have some form of early voting. At least 32 million Americans cast their ballots early in this past election cycle.
The second measure would close a loophole in New York’s campaign finance law that allows for undisclosed unlimited spending by third parties in political campaigns.
With this legislation, Silver is moving to try to curb the growing power of so-called independent expenditures.
Currently, corporations, industry groups, wealthy individuals, unions and other special interests can participate directly in campaigns as long as they define themselves as issue advocates and avoid using certain “magic words”, as defined by the state Board of Elections, like “vote for” or “reject.”
Unlike official campaigns and traditional political action committees, independent expenditure committees can accept unlimited contributions.
Silver’s bill would require all committees to register with the state Board of Elections and file regular disclosure reports – just like PACs and regular candidate committees do.
As a result of the 2011 US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, independent expenditures cannot be limited outright.
That decision caused a boom in independent spending by outside interests trying to influence the outcome of elections – both at the state and local levels.
The TU’s Jimmy Vielkind notes NYSUT spent more than $4.5 million this year – about $3.5 million of which went to independent expenditure campaigns that assisted the Senate Democrats.
And two downstate Super PACs spent more than $500,000 to support Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk in the 46th Senate District race, the result of which is still being contested in court.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Liz Benjamin on December 27, 2012 at 4:54 pm, and is filed under Assembly, Campaign Finance Reform, Democrats, Sheldon Silver, Uncategorized. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|