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Poll: New Yorkers Want Campaign Finance Reform

April 29, 2008

New York, NY - New Yorkers are fed up with highly-financed special interests funding the electoral process. Zogby International's statewide survey found that respondents believe taxpayers will save money through public financing of elections rather than having special interests get lucrative breaks in exchange for campaign contributions.

Pamela Bennett, with the Public Policy and Education Fund of New York, a nonprofit group that commissioned the poll, believes the findings are significant.

"Basically, what we found was that New Yorkers think that their tax dollars, and their consumer dollars, are being wasted because of the undue influence that special interests have on our legislative process."

The survey found that 74 percent of voters support public financing, including 80 percent of Independents, 72 percent of Republicans and 73 percent of Democrats. Upstate, 79 percent of voters support the proposal, as do 76 percent of suburban voters.

Bennett says lobbyist and industrial influence has been especially strong in blocking legislation such as a bottle-return bill, bulk drug purchasing by the state, and real estate reform in urban centers.

"We have the same kind of situation in terms of insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry. Each is pouring money into campaigns. And they are obviously doing this because they see it as benefiting their issues."

The Supreme Court has ruled that free speech gives candidates the right to go beyond campaign limits if they choose to refuse public financing. Still, Bennett says there's a groundswell in Albany to make public financing and campaign limits an option for reform-minded candidates.

"We have 45 members in the Assembly who have signed on to a 'Dear Colleague' letter stating that they support full public financing of campaigns. Malcolm Smith, the Senate Minority Leader, is sponsoring a 'Clean Elections' bill. There is movement."

The Zogby poll results are available online at www.citizenactionny.org.

Robert Knight/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - NY