Elections Committee Holds Hearing On Campaign Finance Reform Proposals

April 23, 2010

Today, The Senate Elections Committee, Chaired by Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. (D-Queens) held the second hearing on sweeping changes to New York’s campaign finance system.

Continuing its commitment to improving the electoral process, the Committee discussed proposals including two for the public financing of campaigns (S7506/ Adams and S5814/Smith), lowering maximum contribution limits (S4545/Squadron), closing the limited liability company loophole (S5277/ Squadron), and preventing the potential flood of corporate political spending unleashed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United vs. FEC (S7083/ Squadron).
The Committee also received feedback on proposals about mandating disclosure of the source of independent political advertising in the advertisement (S7478/Addabbo), and prohibiting political spending by businesses with State contracts (S7479/Addabbo).
“The Elections Committee is committed to ensuring that the voice of corporations and those able to make large contributions does not drown out the will of the people in our electoral process,” said Elections Committee Chair Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. (D-Queens). “These proposals will help to moderate the influence of contributions on the electoral process and increase the public’s confidence in the value of their votes and the legitimacy of our elected officials.”
Senator Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn) said, “The establishment of a public campaign finance mechanism is an essential step in reforming Albany politics. My legislation will diminish the influence of special interests and lobbyists and increase the independence of elected legislators.  The public perceives that ‘big money’ has excessive sway in Albany. Campaign finance reform is crucial, and a system of public campaign financing is the key to reform.”
State Senator Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn) said, “New York’s campaign finance laws are some of the weakest in the nation – if we are going to reform Albany, we must start by reforming the role of money in politics. This package of campaign finance reform bills—including bills that will create public financing, limit the size of campaign contributions, require limited liability companies to attribute large contributions to company members, and require shareholder approval of political spending by corporations—will begin to rein in unchecked political influence for those who can afford it.”
"The recent Supreme Court Decision in Citizens United puts our fragile democratic process in real danger of being hijacked by the priorities of corporations with deep pockets," said Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan). "This legislation creates a system of checks-and-balances by requiring public reporting of corporate political spending and approval by shareholders, a valuable counter-force to growing corporate campaign spending."
“Our existing campaign finance laws are woefully inadequate,” said Senator Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Westchester). “We must move forward with reforms that will lower campaign contribution limits and increase campaign finance disclosures. I commend Senator Addabbo and the Elections Committee for their efforts to ensure greater transparency and accountability in our State elections.”
"For too long, we’ve had a government that represents the powerful, well-connected interests, and limits access for everyone else. That's all about to change. These meaningful campaign finance reforms will level the playing field and give New Yorkers the open, honest and accountable government they deserve," said Senator Eric T. Schneiderman (D-Manhattan/Bronx).
The Committee heard feedback on the following proposals:
Public Financing of Campaigns

  • Provides a comprehensive yet balanced approach to the public financing of political campaigns through realistic limitations on expenditures and contributions, a mechanism for recovering unspent public funds, and new penalties for violators of filing requirements (S7506/ Adams).
  • Provides for voluntary public financing of statewide and state legislative offices (S5814/Smith). 


Establish New Contribution Limits

  • Lowers  the maximum amount an individual may contribute to campaigns each calendar year from $150,000 to $75,000 (S4545/ Squadron).
  • Establishes new contribution limits, expands the types of organizations prohibited from making contributions and aggregates certain contributions (S5282B/ Squadron).


Increase Corporate Regulation

  • Requires that corporate contributors disclose any majority shareholder parent corporation, and any group of shareholders that holds a majority of the shares of either corporation (S3980/ Oppenheimer).
  • Provides that limited liability companies must attribute contributions over $2,500.00 to the company members (S5277/Squadron).
  • Prohibits corporations and other entities seeking or renewing government contracts from making direct and indirect political expenditures (S7478/ Addabbo).
  • Requires shareholder approval of a budget for political expenditures, and an annual accounting of the expenditures and their business purpose (S7083/ Squadron).


Increase Donor Disclosure

  • Requires a political committee to disclose a contributor's occupation, employer, full name and address (S900/ Kruger).
  • Requires bundlers of campaign contributions to disclose name, address and the amount raised (S3965/ Oppenheimer).


Tougher Regulation for Candidates

  • Restricts the use of campaign funds to campaign and office holding expenses, prohibits the personal use of campaign funds, and provides for their disposition after death (S743A/ Krueger).
  • Increases the transparency of candidate fundraising and expenditures by limiting candidates to one authorized committee (S5546/ Addabbo).
  • Requires that all corporate and independent advertising for or against a candidate in New York State clearly state its source, including disclosures by trade and other associations of sponsorship by their three largest contributors (S7479/ Addabbo).

This hearing is part of the Committee’s commitment to delivering an inclusive, reliable and efficient electoral process to the voters of New York. This year alone, the Senate has made great strides in this effort passing legislation to improve ballot access and election administration, protect the privacy of domestic violence victims when voting, and more.
The Elections Committee invites the public to provide feedback on these proposals at www.nysenate.gov/open. The New York State Senate is one of the only legislative bodies in the nation to provide a mechanism for individuals to comment on legislative activity.