WFP letter on money in politics

Last week, the New York Times published a letter to the editor that made the absurd argument that Super PACs help make elections more democratic. This weekend, the paper published several responses as their “Sunday Conversation.” You can read the original letter and several responses here. WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor’s response is below.

The misguided Citizens United ruling didn’t open the floodgates to big money in American politics, though it surely made the flood much worse. Today, the voices of voters of ordinary means are drowning.

Before we had Super Pacs, we had 527s. Before that, ‘soft money.’ It goes back at least to the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo ruling that money is speech.  Since then, free speech has grown steadily more expensive.

If you’re one of the two dozen individuals and companies who have given over a million dollars to Super PACs, you don’t have to worry about the corrosive influence of big money on  democracy. But that group, elite even among the 1%, leaves the rest of us unheard.

But Weinstock gets one thing right – challengers facing incumbents deserve a fair fight.

A system of public financing of elections, based on New York City’s model, would encourage candidates to raise money from small-dollar donors, not the super-wealthy, and ensure that viable candidates with popular support have the resources to compete. And by encouraging politicians to seek small donations, public financing would limit the influence of lobbyists and make elected officials more responsive to the needs of their constituents.

Governor Cuomo deserves tremendous credit for proposing such a system for elections in New York State. A Sienna poll found that 74% of New Yorkers support the governor’s public financing plan, including large majorities of moderates, liberals and conservatives.

Dan Cantor
Executive Director, Working Families Party

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