June 15, 2016

New York Becomes 17th State to Call for a Constitutional Amendment to Rein in Election Spending

A Bipartisan Majority of the New York Senate and Assembly Urges Congress to Overturn Citizens United and Related Decisions

ALBANY, N.Y. – A bipartisan group of five New York state lawmakers and the New York for Democracy coalition announced today that a majority of officials in both the Senate and the Assembly have signed a letter urging the U.S. Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) and McCutcheon v. FEC decisions.

New York joined 16 other states and the District of Columbia in calling for a constitutional amendment. New York’s legislature is the first with at least one chamber controlled by Republicans to do so – signaling that the public’s bipartisan dismay over Citizens United is finally catching up with our elected officials.

To see the Republican Senate Letter click here.
To see the Democrat Senate Letter click here.
To see the Independent Democratic Conference Senate Letter click here.
To see Senator Stewart-Cousins’ Letter click here.
To see the Assembly Letter click here.

“Quite simply, there is no more critical foundation to our democracy than to ensure citizens have free and fair elections,” said Republican State Senator Phil Boyle. “The United States Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case has already led to an avalanche of campaign spending by individuals, unions and artificial entities. In order to regain control of our nation’s electoral process from big money influences, we call upon Congress to amend our federal Constitution to overturn this flawed decision.”

“We should be a government of the many – not a government of the money. And that’s what devastating Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United and McCutcheon have turned our system of politics into,” said U.S. Rep. Paul D. Tonko (D-N.Y.).“I thank the New York for Democracy coalition for their dedication and tireless efforts to fight back against these horribly misguided decisions. If we’re going to overturn Citizens United and others like it, we have to tackle the problem both in Washington and here at the state level in Albany. It’s well past time to get big money out of politics and level the playing field for everyday Americans who currently can’t afford to take part in a rigged system that only benefits the ultra-wealthy. That’s why I will continue to fight to pass legislation like the Government By the People Act and a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.”

Citizens United was a bad decision, with far-reaching impacts for New Yorkers and Americans across the country,” said Democratic State Senator Daniel Squadron. “Now, a bipartisan majority of state senators and assemblymembers have come together to voice their support for ending Citizens United, once and for all. It's critical that legislation also move forward to show New York’s strong support for the voice of everyday Americans in the political process. I thank the Governor, my Senate and Assembly colleagues, as well as Public Citizen and coalition partners.”

“New Yorkers deserve to be represented by individuals who are hardworking and dedicated, and not willing to use their financial advantage over others to buy votes,” said Republican Assemblyman Michael Montesano.“We need to eliminate the opportunity for people to receive power by paying the highest price, and instead ensure that elected officials are working in the best interests of the people of New York.”

“When corporations and other big-money interests can spend unlimited amounts on our elections, it threatens the very foundations of our democracy,” said Democratic State Senator Liz Krueger.Citizens United has ushered in an era of unprecedented outside spending, drowning out the voices of average Americans and tilting our society further toward plutocracy. I’m proud to stand with a majority of my legislative colleagues in New York to call for a constitutional amendment overturning this disastrous decision, and stating once and for all that corporations are not people, and money is not speech.”

“I am pleased to announce that a majority of my Assembly colleagues have joined me in urging Congress to pass a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling,” said Democratic Assemblyman Jim Brennan. “When we think about the intent behind campaign finance laws they are supposed to protect our democracy from corruption while preserving the integrity of our elections. Citizens United has done the opposite. By allowing corporations the same rights as individuals, campaigns across the country are being fueled by obscene amounts of money. This has to stop. I call on Congress to do the right thing and pass a constitutional amendment to right this wrong.”

“The growing, unfortunate and obscene influence of money in politics must be curtailed and overturning Citizens United needs to be a priority of Congress for the future of our democracy,” said Democratic Assemblymember Patricia A. Fahy. “Unlimited federal spending makes it more challenging for grassroots candidates to have their voices heard and to be competitive against well-funded opponents.”

“New York has taken an important step in becoming the first state legislature with Republicans controlling at least one chamber to call for a constitutional amendment,” said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, campaign co-director of Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign. “I applaud the leadership of Senator Boyle – who stood with 80 percent of Republicans nationwide who support overturning Citizens United – and authored the Republican Senate letter calling for an amendment. We also applaud Senator Squadron’s and Assemblyman Brennan’s leadership, as well. This victory is a result of a three-and-a half-year effort by New Yorkers and they deserve the biggest credit and thanks for today’s victory.”

“For the past four years, people across New York state have demanded that their state legislators join the call for a 28th Amendment to end big money in our politics and to reclaim our democracy,” said John Bonifaz, the co-founder and president of Free Speech For People. “Thanks to this sustained pressure from a broad-based grassroots movement, New York is now the 17th state in the nation to call for this amendment. And, this movement will only continue to grow. We the people, not corporations and big money interests, shall govern in America."

“This is an exciting victory both for New York and for the growing democracy movement nationwide,” said Rio Tazewell, manager of the Government By the People campaign at People For the American Way. “We’re now officially 17 states strong in calling for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics and reform our out-of-balance system. Every call, every conversation and every petition signature made a difference in this fight. And the fact that this was a bipartisan effort highlights the reality that Americans of all political stripes want to see concrete money in politics reform, not just lip service about the problem. Today, we’re one step closer to creating a democracy where big money doesn’t set the political agenda and every voice can be heard.”

“It's clear the New York State Legislature knows that getting big money out of our political system is a necessity,” said Jessica Wisneski, legislative and campaigns director of Citizen Action of New York. We applaud them for joining the other 16 other states in calling for an amendment to overturn Citizens United and stop the flood of dark money in our elections. There is so much these same legislators can do to stop the flow of special interest campaign cash right here in New York’s system and we call on them to do so in short order.”

“The toxic money in politics may be the biggest environmental threat facing New Yorkers. End the disproportionate influence big polluters have on election campaigns – and passing common sense public interest legislation suddenly becomes easier,” said Roger Downs, conservation director for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “We congratulate the New York state legislature for officially voicing New York’s opposition to Citizens United and hope that it is a sign that meaningful campaign finance reform will be soon follow.”

The groups behind the amendment effort in New York are Public Citizen, Free Speech For People, People For the American Way, American Sustainable Business Council, Big Apple Coffee Party, Citizen Action, Common Cause New York, Communications Workers of America, Concerned Citizens For Change, Democracy Matters, Interfaith Impact of New York, Local First Ithaca, Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, Long Island Progressive Coalition, MoveOn.org, Move to Amend, New York Alcohol Policy Alliance, New York State Sustainable Business Council, New York Public Interest Research Group, People Demanding Action, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Syracuse Peace Council and VOCAL-NY.

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