Every year at the end of the legislative session, many hot-button issues debated over the preceding months develop into bills taken up at the Capitol. A popular topic of discussion in 2013 has been the public financing of political campaigns.
While the intent of the proposal is to stop corruption in state government, the truth is that public financing actually encourages corruption and, worst of all, puts taxpayers on the hook for the bill. This is an example of an age-old practice by New York State government; with no actual solution in sight, throw more taxpayer money at the problem and hope it goes away.
The public financing measure being considered by the state Assembly is based on the system used in New York City, where taxpayers provide $6 to match every $1 a candidate raises.
To claim that this model has ended corruption in city government would be wildly inaccurate. As evidenced by the recent scandal involving State Senator Malcolm Smiths attempt to bribe his way onto the mayoral ballot, matching funds can appear to be a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow for money-grabbing politicians.
In 2009, city taxpayers were slammed for roughly $25 million to fund matching grants. If the same percentage of candidates used maximum funding in a full-ballot year on the state level, taxpayers could be on the hook for over $321 million.
This years state budget cut funding for programs and services for the developmentally disabled by $90 million. Transportation service in Bay Ridge continues to be inadequate, while residents are still facing astronomical bridge tolls.
With so many critical areas of our community in desperate need of funding, how can we take more taxpayer money to fund political campaigns? Residents are already sick of the negative ads, phone calls and mail pieces invading their homes. To ask them to fund those practices while so many deserving programs and projects suffer is unfair and insulting.
To clean up government corruption, we need to enforce a zero-tolerance policy for elected officials who violate the public trust. I am the sponsor of numerous pieces of legislation to do just that, including the Public Corruption Prevention and Enforcement Act.
This bill would increase transparency requirements, crack down on abuse of public funds and strengthen penalties against elected officials who abuse their office. By adopting these measures in addition to imposing term limits and stripping pension benefits from officials who abuse their office, we can significantly change Albany’s culture of corruption.
Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis represents portions of Bay Ridge and Staten Island.