Fighting for Fair Elections in New York

Michael Gendron, Executive Vice President, CWA Local 1108

October 22, 2019

Good afternoon, I want to thank the commission for giving me the opportunity to speak before you about this very important issue.

Over the past decade, we have witnessed the increased influence that money plays in our politics. We have elected representatives spending far too much time, with the wealthy and out of district donors, seeking large donations for their campaigns and not enough time with constituents, raising small donations and talking about their kitchen table issues. I have seen requests for donations go out in December after they won their election the month before. This system of relying on donations from the few- the wealthy and corporate donors- has put too much power in the hands of these few. We need to adopt a system that gives a plumber or carpenter the same influence as the real estate builders they work for. We need a system that gives an equal voice to a telephone lineman as the CEO of Verizon. We need a system that gives working men and women the means to run for office so that they can represent the communities they live in and fight for the issues that affect everyday people.

That system is publicly financed elections, modeled on having candidates focus on small donations from their constituents and having those small donations matched at least 6 to 1. We need this to be a permanent small donor public financing program that lowers contribution limits for both participating and non-participating candidates. New York has the highest contribution limits and is among the worst in the nation when it comes to small donors. We need the program adopted by this commission to include an independent enforcement unit. Since the citizen’s united decision, a small donor matching program is the best solution to counter the big money flooding our elections.

This small donor public financing program can restore people’s faith in our state government and change their perception that nobody in Albany is listening. We can change the perception that the wealthy and corporations are all that matters. We have a chance to let the issues that are most important to average New Yorkers lead the way. Working families that have not had their voices heard or their daily issues addressed can now stand up be counted!

I hope that this commission will not allow itself to be distracted by attempting to abolish fusion voting. Fusion voting is a separate and unrelated issue. Fusion voting is a constitutionally protected voting right that an unelected commission does not have the legal standing to tamper with. Attempts to roll back fusion voting has been blocked 3 times in state courts, including the highest court- the NYS court of appeals.

I urge this commission to focus their efforts on establishing a small donor public financing program that will actually level the playing field for average New Yorkers and will lead to a government that is truly represented by we the people- all of we the people!

Check out the full press conference video here.