New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Statement on Governor Cuomo’s Proposed Campaign Finance and Election Reforms

Big Money Out

 

Campaign Finance Reform Generally

"1.1 million New Yorkers voted for campaign finance reform in New York City politics and it is time to get big money out of Albany.

"Whether your top issue is education, transit, environment, or public safety, a precondition to winning is a public campaign finance system that forces politicians to work for voters over the interest of big money.

“The ‘Blue Wave’ of newly elected state officials must act now to get big money out before its corrupting influence can take hold as a breakwater.”

Council Member Ben Kallos introduced Int. 1130 in 2016 to reform New York City’s campaign finance system. After Kallos testified at Mayor de Blasio’s Charter Revision Commission in favor of campaign reforms, those reforms were adopted as Ballot Question 1. Kallos successfully advocated for Question 1 in the NYCCFB’s Voter Guide, actively participated in the Democracy Yes coalition, and authored opinion editorials in favor of the reforms in City and State and Medium. Kallos then authored Local Law 1 of 2019 extending the new campaign finance reforms of Ballot Question 1 to the special election for public advocate and to special elections that follow.

 

Public Matching

Big dollar contributions and those who can give them should not have more power than other voters. With a public matching system like the one that has working in New York City, a candidate running for office can focus on average residents who give small donations and not on large contributions from special interests. In order for elections to be decided by the people, they must be financed by them as well.

“Without New York City’s public matching system, I never would have been elected to the City Council. Public matching of small donations from everyday New Yorkers helped me challenge an incumbent, and a state matching system will give grassroots candidates for Senate and Assembly the same opportunity.

Council Member Ben Kallos introduced Int. 1130 in 2016 to reform New York City’s campaign finance system by increasing the public matching grant from 55% to 85% of the spending limit and increasing the amount of dollars matched from $175 to $250.

 

Lowering Contribution Limits

“No one gives $65,000 to statewide elected official or $11,000 to a state senator without wanting anything in return. People who have given me $10 or didn’t even give me anything but voted for me regularly tell me that I owe them something. That being said they usually ask for me to fill a pothole. It’s only natural that expectations increase with the amount of contributions. I once offered someone a gift worth a couple of thousand dollars and I expected her to spend her life with me. She said yes.

Ballot Question 1 advocated for by Council Member Kallos, lowered contributions citywide from $5,100 to $2,500, borough-wide from $3,950 to $1,500 and council districts from $2,850 to $1,000.

 

Ending Corporate Contributions

"Forget the LLC loophole. Corporations aren't people and should have no right to buy politicians. I've never taken corporate contributions and I never will, neither should Albany. Thank you to Governor Cuomo for going beyond the LLC loophole to get corporate money out of New York State politics.

 

Online Voter Registration

"New York State must finally join the 21st Century with online voter registration. Every New Yorker should be able to register to vote with their smartphone. Voter registration should be as easy as swiping right on Tinder. I sign for credit card charges and even my drivers license on a digital pad, I don't see why we can't register to vote online.

"After the legislation I authored to provide online voter registration in New York City was signed into law, the Board of Elections was quick to reach a predictable deadlock between Democrat and Republican commissioners over whether to accept these electronic signatures. It will take nothing less than an act of Governor Cuomo to bring online voter registration to New York State. The good news is that 38 other states and the District of Columbia have already paved the way to make it easy, and I've even built a system the state can have for free.

New York City Council passed Council Member Kallos’ legislation on November 16, 2017 to implement online voter registration for New York City voters. Relying on an opinion by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman which allows online voter registration by localities, Council Member Ben Kallos authored the legislation, which requires the City’s Campaign Finance Board to create and maintain a secure website and mobile app allowing New York City residents to register to vote online. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the bill into law on December 16, 2017.

 

Automatic Voter Registration

“Democracy should be a click away. We are used to filling out forms online with the click of a mouse and voter registration should be no different. You should be able to register and receive a confirmation by email, just like any other website. Barriers to registration must be removed so that anyone who is eligible to register can do so quickly and easily. Thank you to Mayor Bill de Blasio for supporting this legislation and making it law. With the support of his administration, we are sure to see a positive impact from this legislation.

 

State Holiday for Election Day

“Election Day is the most important day of the year for our democracy. Making Election Day a state holiday will give all New Yorkers the opportunity to vote without having to risk consequences at their workplace.

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