On March 3rd I testified at a forum held by the NYS Senate delegation from Manhattan on the importance of Fair Elections and urged them to include money for a small donor election matching funds program in the State budget for this fiscal year. You can read my testimony below or watch the video of me testifying (yes, I know, I need to stop slouching!)
Testimony to the Manhattan Senate Delegation’s Budget Forum
NY Academy of Medicine, 1216 Fifth Ave., 2nd Floor, Room 20
Good afternoon. My name is Benjamin Wetzler, I am the Democratic Party District Leader for the 76th Assembly District, part A, which covers the Lenox Hill and Roosevelt Island communities in Manhattan, as well as a board member of the Four Freedoms Democratic Club. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.
Last year our club’s members made an aggressive push to assist candidates for office around the NYC area who shared our values running against well-funded incumbents, hosting phone banks on the Upper East Side and making bus trips as many as three times a week. It was a grueling effort, and required a sustained high level of optimism and enthusiasm about the political process.
The perception that political candidates can be captured by special interests in the form of high-dollar campaign donations – or, alternatively, that candidates not captured by these interests are hopeless and not worth supporting – undermines that level of enthusiasm and has the potential to harm groups like ours and the candidates we choose to support. I cannot reliably tell my club’s members they should spend their Saturdays in November out in the rain knocking on doors for candidates they cannot trust are honest.
New York State has an opportunity to rectify the perception of special interest influence by creating a matching fund program for small dollar donations to candidates for state office. This would ensure candidates for office focus less on high-dollar fundraising and more on soliciting grassroots support, and would make candidates without connections to traditional political power structures viable in NYS elections. I urge the Senate delegation from Manhattan to insist to their colleagues that money for such a program be included in the Senate’s one-house budget and ultimately be part of the final state budget.
Thank you for your time and consideration.