By the end of this year, a system of publicly financed campaigns could be born. The details hinge on a commission appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and top lawmakers in the Legislature. Rosemary Rivera, executive director of Citizen Action, says the large amount of money in politics has drown out other voices.
"Money in politics, which helps to delusion communities, particularly low income, moderate and communities of color, continues to raise. Part of it is because it's hard to fight the power of the green," Rivera said.
More than 200 groups have formed a coalition to push the commission to create a system of public funding campaigns, where every six dollars donated results in one dollar of public funds. They want to lower the state's sky-high contribution limits, and limit what are known as soft-money or housekeeping campaign accounts where donors can give unlimited contributions.
"We need lower limits. We need to change pay to play. We need to check those housekeeping accounts. We need strong enforcement of donations," said Laura Ladd Bierman, League of Women Voters executive director.
Supporters of the changes say publicly financed campaigns can bring New Yorkers closer to their elections and government, giving them a stake in the outcome.
"We want to change the system. We want to empower everyday New Yorkers, amplify the voice of individual people," said Alex Camarda, Reinvent Albany.
But the commission has potentially broad powers and could end what's known as fusion voting, which allows a single candidate to run on multiple ballot lines. The current law has allowed minor parties like the Working Families Party on the left and the Conservative Party on the right to remain influential. NYPIRG's Blair Horner says the focus on fusion voting would be misplaced.
"So how they're going to do this is beyond me, but that's their charge. And to take on other issues seems, frankly, irresponsible," Horner said.
The report from the campaign finance commission is due December 1.