New York Needs Campaign Finance Reform Now

President Obama and his opponent Mitt Romney are here in New York for tonight’s debate, and they’re making the most of their visits with schedules packed full of fundraisers. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since when it comes to political spending, New Yorkers lead the “PAC” by a long shot.

Just yesterday, Common Cause New York released a memo exposing how New York has become an ATM for federal campaigns, and the results might surprise you. Of the 39 people nationwide who have given $1 million or more to superPACs, 10 of them live in New York.

We’ve also compiled the names of New York’s biggest superPAC donors, and it’s a long list. Executives in finance industry are by far the biggest spenders, with over $20 million coming primarily from private equity and hedge funds, but real estate and media moguls are big spenders as well.

These donors aren’t just giving out of the goodness of their hearts—they’re expecting a return on their investment at our expense. As I told NY Daily News, “When one state can send so much money and have so many wealthy people buying influence and access, it’s not helpful for our democracy.”

There’s a solution to this big money mess of course—we need to set stricter contribution limits, end pay-to-play with tighter regulations, and publicly finance our elections so it’s possible to run for office without kowtowing to huge donors.

We also need to take another look at our state campaign finance laws, which are some of the most lenient in the nation and chock full of loopholes. Governor Andrew Cuomo has already said he’ll push through campaign finance reform, and all of us at Common Cause New York are holding him to that promise.

The problem of big money in politics isn’t going to go away until we take decisive action to keep our leaders accountable to the people who elected them. New Yorkers, and all Americans, deserve a democracy that is not for sale.

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