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NY legislators give away police union donations following outcry

By now there is absolutely no question that the year 2020 will occupy entire volumes in the annals of history, and it’s hard to find a better example of the significance of these changes than the dramatic shift in New York campaign finance over the past few days

Following the nationwide uprising after the death of George Floyd, nine state politicians have announced that they will refuse campaign donations from police PACs and give the money these PACs have already donated to bail funds and mutual aid organizations. 

The refunds apparently started when Aaron Fernando, a supporter of Zohran Mamdani’s insurgent campaign for Assembly, tweeted this weekend that Mamdani’s incumbent opponent, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, had taken over $1,500 from police unions this cycle. 20 minutes later, Simotas announced that she would be donating all her union donations to bail fund and prison reform groups.

This started a Twitter storm, and by the end of the weekend, at least eight other electeds had announced that they also would be re-directing the funds they’ve received, including Senate Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris.

While PAC donations don’t necessarily equate to pro-police policies, many voters see the two as inextricable. Given the apparent turn in public opinion away from the police – and, possibly, the shift in how campaigns will fundraise going forward – we shouldn’t be surprised if the next couple weeks produce more tectonic shifts in public policy. As of this writing, that’s what legislative leaders are hinting.


More reminders of why we need campaign finance reform: Governor Cuomo’s nominees to the New York Forward Reopening Advisory Board.The Daily News reports that the board, which was created last month to advise Cuomo on how to safely lift the state’s coronavirus restrictions, is being staffed by some of the governor’s most generous donors. At least 37 appointees on the 134-member board have given Cuomo’s campaign a combined total of almost $1 million, while 19 members have donated at least $10,000 each. Some of Cuomo’s biggest donors, like Scott Rechler, the real estate developer and RXR Realty CEO, and Rob Sands, the billionaire chairman of beer, wine, and spirits company Constellation Brands, have also found spots on the board. Aside from reinforcing the perception of pay-to-play politics, it’s not hard to imagine a conflict of interest in the nominees’ positions, as many stand to profit from some of the reopening plans moving forward. 


The beginning of June means that we’re officially in primary month, and if you’d like to stay safe and vote by mail during New York’s June 23rd primaries but haven’t gotten around to requesting an absentee ballot, now is the time to do so! Applicants must postmark, apply online, email, or fax a completed absentee ballot application by June 16th, but can apply in-person by June 22nd. Be sure and check your mailbox to see if you’ve already received an application form by mail. New York City residents who have yet to apply can do so here, while residents residing outside the city can apply here.


Our #FixNYDemocracy campaign is underway! Soon we’re going to start reaching out to candidates and making sure they commit to giving New York a stronger democracy. If you’re interested in becoming involved, please reach out to RJ at


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