Campaign finance reform and the effect of PAC’s on the election process was the subject of discussion at the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale’s luncheon on Friday October 19 at Scarsdale Golf Club. Guest speaker Susan Lerner is a former trial lawyer who now serves as the Executive Director of Common Cause of New York. According to Lerner, "Big money has long dominated our elections, and the problem has only gotten worse after the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling in 2010, which paved the way for unlimited amounts of corporate money in our elections. Common Cause New York is working for campaign finance reforms that will help bring government back to the people by reducing the influence of wealthy special interests, expanding public funding of campaigns, and encouraging campaigns to seek funding from a broader base of small contributors."
According to Lerner, total Super PAC contributions for the upcoming election are $477 million and New York leads the way with aquarter of Super PACS originating in the state, and 10 out of 39 of the $1 million plus contributors living here. Lerner contends that since national Super PACS are spending big in local elections, “candidates are being superseded by wealthy individuals and are losing control of the message and the campaign.” Furthermore, in swing state like Nevada, Super PACS are flooding the airwaves and causing voters to reach their saturation. Rather than absorbing the messaging, resident are turning off the television and tuning out the ads.
Lerner argues that Instead of serving the democratic process, the millions of dollars spent on political advertising are benefiting campaign consultants and broadcasters -- so the media has little incentive to come out against Super PAC spending.
However Common Cause is fighting to correct the inequities caused by the Supreme Court ruling in several ways:
They are lobbying for new disclosure laws to create transparency for entities that make the expenditures. They believe the source of PAC funds and the names of the five largest contributors should appear on the ads so that viewers can assess the ads based on the sources of funding.
They are seeking to reform the campaign finance system and backing an amendment to the constitution to amend the Citizen’s United decision. In Montana and Colorado, voters will have the opportunity to vote for this initiative in the upcoming November election. You can learn more about the AMEND 2012 campaign here: http://amend2012.org/
Upcoming event from the League of Women Voters;
On Thursday, October 25th at 7:30 pm, the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale will sponsor a Candidate Forum in the Scott Room at the Scarsdale Public Library. The public is invited and encouraged to attend. Participants will include Eliot Engel, Joe McLaughlin, and Joe Diaferia, candidates for US Congress, District 16; Andrea Stewart-Cousins, running for New York State Senate, representing District 35, and Amy Paulin, running for New York State Assembly, representing District 88.
Pictured at top: Susan Lerner of Common Cause with League President Marylou Cooper Green