Downtown Digest, April 25, 2012

Silver champions fair elections  Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Election Law Committee Chairman Michael Cusick have introduced legislation to bring fair elections to New York by reforming the state’s antiquated campaign finance laws and creating a public financing system for all state offices, shifting the focus of elections to the substance of the issues and candidates – not the money used to fund them.

“Fair elections go to the heart of our democracy and are essential to preserving good government,” said Speaker Silver.  “In light of the devastating effects the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has had on federal elections, we in New York should be leading the way in reducing the influence of money in our own elections. Let us be the model for the rest of the nation in establishing and preserving fair elections.”

The legislation reforms the system by allowing candidates for state office who meet the necessary requirements and reach the eligibility threshold in their fundraising to receive matching contributions of $6 for every $1 they raise on contributions of up to $250. The bill requires candidates to have a broad array of contributors by requiring a certain number of small-dollar donors – natural persons from a candidate’s district – to ensure that large-dollar donors do not have undue influence.  Public funds would be capped at a specific limit depending on the office being sought.

Underscoring the importance of the substance of campaigns and not the money that funds them, candidates receiving public financing who are running opposed would be required to participate in at least one debate before the primary election and one debate before the general election.  These debates would be open to all candidates, regardless of funding.

The bill also provides mechanisms for funding, including an income tax check-off of $5 that would be deposited into the newly-created “New York State Campaign Finance Fund” and an additional 10 percent surcharge on recoveries from fraudulent practices relating to stocks, bonds and other securities.

Downtown Alliance donates computers  After upgrading its computer network this past spring, the Downtown Alliance donated 60 of its previously owned computers to nine not-for-profit organizations in the major metropolitan area.

“Guided by David Rockefeller’s 50-year-old tradition of civic activism, our organization has a long history of collaboration and commitment to community,” said Elizabeth H. Berger, president of the Downtown Alliance. “We are excited to continue building on his vision with the donation of these computers.”

The Downtown Alliance staff sought not-for-profit organizations in need of additional computers, and these organizations accepted the donations.

Approximately four years old, each Intel HP Convertible minitower computer has been reinstalled with Windows XP. Restored to initial settings, the units also come with rewriteable DVD drives and keyboards.