MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. — State Senate candidate Justin Wagner (D-Croton-on-Hudson) called campaign finance reform “the defining issue of my generation” at Wednesday’s “Caravan of Corruption” event at the Mount Kisco Public Library.
Wagner, who is running against incumbent Sen. Greg Ball (R-Patterson) in the 40th Senate District, told the audience that one of his first goals if elected is to push for legislation that holds public officials accountable to voters rather than corporations and special interest groups.
The Caravan of Corruption campaign uses an informational presentation in the form of a traveling sideshow with mock exhibits: life-size cardboard cutouts of famous former state elected officials like Vincent Leibell and Nick Spano who were convicted on corruption charges. Mount Kisco was third on the statewide tour’s list of nine stops over two days.
Wagner said the re-election rate in New York is close to 99 percent: Many communities this election season have not presented challengers to run against the incumbents, he said.
“Right now the system is stacked against good candidates, it’s stacked against change, and the status quo is embedded,” he said.
Joe Mayhew of Communications Workers of America Local 1103 and Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Public Campaign, were among other speakers at Wednesday’s event, which was developed by Fair Elections for New York and organized in part by Citizen Action of New York.
Attendees were asked to fill out postcards to send to their elected officials pushing for a grassroots, public matching funds system.
According to the Campaign Finance Institute, if New York City’s current system is used as a model for the funding plan, the cost would be $25 million to $30 million a year for a four-year election cycle, or $ 2.50 per New Yorker per year.
The group would also like to see lower campaign contribution limits. Current New York campaign finance law allows individuals to donate $60,000 to a candidate running for statewide office and $10,000 to a state Senate candidate.
In addition, Fair Elections for New York is fighting against the “bundling” of contributions from lobbyists and wants to make sure transparency is enforced within the system.
Proponents of the legislation include Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said Jessica Wisneski, campaigns director of Citizen Action of New York, as evidenced in his last State of the State address.
It is rumored that there will either be a special session in Albany or that the governor will address the issue in January when the new legislative session begins.
“We certainly want [Cuomo] to know that voters care about his,” Wisneski said.