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What the campaign finance commission should REALLY focus on

Don’t kill fusion voting. Don’t kill fusion voting. Don’t kill fusion voting. By the way, don’t kill fusion voting.

This was the main theme of last week’s raucous Public Finance Reform Commission hearing, where advocates dragged out one politician, activist, and activist politician after another to tell the Commissioners not to kill fusion voting, which the Commission is reportedly considering. Most of the Commissioners were silent on the issue. But anyone hearing of the Commission for the first time would ask: What the hell does this Commission have to do with Public Finance Reform?

A lot, actually, and the first casualty of the fusion voting controversy has been discussion on how to effectively implement campaign finance reform. Here are some of the questions Commissioners will have to answer when writing the law:

  • How much funding will candidates receive from the state for their campaigns? A 6-to-1 match on donations? 8-to-1? Should donations from constituents receive a higher match? What about contributions to legislators representing low-income districts? Is that even legal?
  • Who is eligible to receive funding? Is anyone who jumps into the race entitled to receive matching funds, or must they meet a threshold of donations? What is a suitable threshold? $10,000 in contributions for Assembly races? $5,000? How many contributions?
  • What can these funds be spent on? Can candidates use them on childcare? Can they use them to pay for car repairs? Can expenses go to their daughter-in-law’s parents’ printing shop? What about taking campaign staff out for a night on the town?
  • Who should sit on the Campaign Finance Board, which regulates the system and issues penalties to violators? Who nominates board members? Is it possible to have an independent board when board members are nominated by the very people they’re regulating?

None of these questions are easy to answer, and they’ve been largely ignored by the media, which churns out one fusion headline after another. Meanwhile, the Commission’s December 1st deadline draws near, and it’s increasingly unclear if Commissioners will have any idea of what they should do – other than not end fusion voting, of course.

In other news…

The NYS Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), frequently blasted for overlooking corruption in NY State, is reportedly considering charges against a sexual assault survivor who campaigned for the Child Victims Act.

Kat Sullivan was allegedly raped by her soccer coach when she was a student at The Emma Willard School in Troy. Knowing she wasn’t alone in experiencing sexual abuse as a minor, she used settlement money from her case for banners and billboards advertising the Child Victims Act – legislation that would allow victims to sue their assailants regardless of when the crime was committed. But because she spent more than $5,000 (the minimum threshold per the state’s lobbying law), JCOPE is demanding that she register herself as a lobbyist – or potentially face $25,000 or more in fines.

“I should have the right to speak my mind as a survivor of sexual abuse,” said Sullivan, who has been receiving numerous phone calls and letters from JCOPE warning her that she’s in violation of the law. Sullivan brought protesters to last week’s JCOPE meeting with two dressed as characters from the popular Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale.

If there’s a silver lining for Sullivan, it’s that JCOPE has done nothing beyond make threats, and it’s speculated that the commissioners privately voted Tuesday to move on from the investigation.

Just six months since the act’s passage, over 400 childhood sexual abuse lawsuits have been filed.

UPCOMING EVENTS

  • Come canvass with us on Saturday, September 21st in Manhattan as we tell New Yorkers about Ranked Choice Voting (Question 1 on the November ballot). RSVP to Tom at tom.e.speaker [at] gmail.com.
  • The next RepresentUs chapter meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 24 at 7pm at the Phluid Project in Manhattan. Please stay tuned for more details.

And thanks to RepUs NY champion and member Teri Hagedorn for testifying at last week’s hearing. She managed to make it through her three minutes without a word about fusion voting.

Thank you for reading! Check us out on Twitter and Facebook, and please write repusnyc [at] gmail.com with any comments, tips, or suggestions.

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