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In opposition to taxpayer-funded elections

The following is a guest column submitted by New York Sen. Mark Grisanti.

Representatives from an entity known as the Public Campaign Action Fund recently announced they were sending out approximately 10,000 mailers in the 60th Senate District, in an attempt to exert public pressure on me to vote for publicly financed campaigns.

No matter what type of mail is sent out, or what fabrications are made, I will never support legislation that mandates that the people whom I was elected to represent pay for elections.

I am offended that this organization, which has roots in New York City and Washington, D.C., has the audacity to think that it can come into Western New York and attempt to threaten and intimidate me into voting for its misguided agenda.

I find it ironic that the Public Campaign Action Fund’s push to take away citizens’ rights to support the candidate or candidates they deem worthy, by forcing the public to finance elections, is based on the fact that it is financing its endeavor through private contributions. This is the same mechanism the group is attempting to take away from the citizens of New York.

The same people attempting to strip you of your right to contribute to the candidate of your choice, by forcing taxpayer subsidized campaigns, have funded their entire effort through private contributions of politically connected special interest groups.

I firmly believe that we need campaign finance reform. I was the only member of the state Senate who voluntarily chose to cooperate with the Moreland Commission. We need better disclosure and accounting of contributions, stronger oversight of housekeeping accounts, lower limits on how much can be contributed and stricter enforcement of the laws that already exist.

What we do not need are taxpayers paying for campaigns. How could I possibly justify, to a Western New York resident, that he or she must pay for the campaign of a downstate individual, of whom you have never heard? In addition, how can I tell you that you cannot financially support the candidate of your choice?

What has been lost in this discussion of publicly financed campaigns is the fact that Albany has become a cesspool of corruption. Recent history has seen various elected officials all face charges related to the “pay-to-play” culture that has become so pervasive in our state capital.

What the Public Campaign Action Fund fails to disclose is that, under its misguided plan, taxpayers would finance the campaigns of each candidate, even those who have faced charges for acts committed, while in office. Anyone who thinks that is a rational solution clearly has an agenda, which has nothing to do with bettering our state or keeping in mind the best interests of the people whom I have been elected to represent.

It has been estimated that the cost of taxpayer-subsidized campaigns, as proposed by the Public Campaign Action Fund, will approach $300 million. Despite the cost-cutting and tax-saving measures we have introduced, the state is hardly flush with cash.

I could think of a multitude of areas that would be a better use for those dollars, including upgrading our infrastructure, investing further into educational programs, enhancing our transportation systems or allowing the hardworking people of this state to keep the money that they earn.

I welcome your opinions about this topic. Please call my district office at 854-8705 or email me at grisanti@nysenate.gov and let me know how you feel about taxpayer-funded elections.
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