Monthly Column: Albany's new wasteful spending idea: taxpayer-funded campaigns

 

    By: Michael H. Ranzenhofer

    The onslaught of public corruption and scandals that has rocked State government, for many years before I started serving in the State Senate and most recently during the last month or so, has spurred some in Albany to propose implementing a statewide taxpayer funded campaign finance system, similar to the one in New York City.  

    However, funding political campaigns with the tax dollars of hardworking Western New Yorkers is a bad idea.  

    In New York City, candidates for public office pocket $6 in taxpayer funds for every $1 their campaign raises.  If this system was enacted all across the State, politicians would have access to up to $221 million of your taxpayer money to fund their campaigns.  There is no doubt that replicating that system all across the State would be a disaster for taxpayers.  The additional costs to administer and oversee taxpayer funded elections would place an even heavier burden on taxpayers who are already struggling in a sluggish economy.  

    As I stated in January’s column, there are many challenges still remaining for New York.  The fiscally responsible, balanced efforts in each of the last three State Budgets have started to put our fiscal house back in order, but wasting hundreds of millions of dollars for political campaigns would be a step in the opposite direction.

    Last Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Elections held a public hearing in the State Capitol to examine the abuses within New York City’s taxpayer funded campaign finance system and the implications for taxpayers if the system were to be expanded statewide.  

    The New York City system appears rife with fraud and abuse, and perhaps encourages more corruption than anywhere else in the State. In some instances, candidates have been accused of fabricating donors to maximize the amount of taxpayer dollars for their campaign account.  In other cases, taxpayer money has been inappropriately used for expenses unrelated to a run for public office.  That’s just plain wrong.

    Rather than cleaning up the process, taxpayer funded elections have fostered more corruption and wrongdoing.  If the New York City public campaign finance system has proved anything, it’s that taxpayer funded campaigns do not prevent abuse.  

    In a recent report, the Center for Competitive Politics characterized the New York City model as the worst in the nation.  The report concluded: “With the sheer volume of problems in the city of New York, from slush fund abuse to union-related corruption and collusion during campaigns, proponents of New York’s system will have a tough argument to make…”

    This latest proposal to use taxpayer dollars to support campaigns is just the newest misguided idea out of Albany to waste your money.  As your State Senator, I’ll continue work to ensure your dollars are being spent wisely.

    Senator Ranzenhofer's monthly column appeared in the Amherst and Clarence Bee on May 15.