Is the proposed Fair Elections Act the way to have fair elections in New York state?
One candidate for the state Assembly's 150th district says no, because the act will give an advantage to incumbents. The other candidate says yes, because the bill will attract more people to run for elected office.
GOODELL SAYS NO TO FAIR ELECTIONS ACT
Incumbent Andy Goodell, R-Chautauqua County, said the Fair Elections Act is not the way to reform campaign financing.
''The public should be concerned with campaign finance reform to the extent that large contributions from special interests might influence a legislator to be inconsistent to his constituents or swing an election, or affect the outcome of an election,'' he said.
Goodell said to reform campaign financing, the amount of money given to a candidate needs to be reduced and existing exceptions need to be eliminated. He said the state's election law has caps on how much every state Assembly candidate can receive - $4,100 from an individual and a total of $5,000 statewide from corporations. However, there is no cap for public sector unions or for contributions between political campaign committees.
This is the second in a three-part series from The Post-Journal debate between Republican incumbent Andy Goodell and Democratic challenger Dr. Rudy Mueller for the 150th New York State Assembly seat.
The candidates answered the following question: Why should the public be concerned about campaign financing and what areas need to be reformed?
Goodell said he would recommend reducing the maximum contribution from an individual to $2,000; apply the same campaign limits to corporations, partnership, unions and all other organizations; and limit political party transfers between committees.
Goodell said under the proposed Fair Elections Act, a candidate who opts in could receive a six-to-one match for contributions, capping at $150,000. To qualify for the match, a candidate must raise at least $10,000 from at least 100 matchable contributions made up of sums of up to $250 per individual. Goodell said the program could cost taxpayers $150 to $200 million.
''I oppose people raising taxes by millions of dollars so politicians can use public dollars to fund their own political campaign,'' he said. ''The Fair Elections bill is not fair. It is grossly unfair. To have politicians in office determining how much tax money they should get is a gross conflict of interest.''
MUELLER SAYS YES TO FAIR ELECTIONS ACT IF AMENDED
Mueller said the Fair Elections Act, if amended, is how campaign finance should be reformed. He said New York City has enacted similar campaign finance reforms and it has resulted in more residents participating in and contributing to local elections.
''There should be some form of publicly funding campaigns,'' he said. ''More people would be able to run for office. We need more competition to keep elected officials honest.''
The challenger said he is not taking any money from labor unions, special interest groups or political action committees.
''I don't believe in it. I'm not doing it,'' he said.
Mueller then discussed Goodell's mailed flyers. He said an estimated $40,000 in taxpayer dollars was spent on the Goodell direct mailings to county households this year. Mueller said one flyer insinuates Goodell was the reason their was an agreement in the state Legislature to pass the budget.
''You had nothing to do with the budget passing on time,'' Mueller said to Goodell. ''You're taking credit for things you didn't have anything to do with.''
Mueller said the taxpayer-funded mailings for the state Assembly and Senate members to state households cost between $16 million to $20 million the last two years. The challenger said he would eliminate these privileges and called on Goodell to repay the taxpayers for the money spent on his mailings.
CANDIDATES SPAR ON FAIR ELECTIONS ACT
Mueller thought, going into the debate, the cap for an assembly candidate under the Fair Elections Act was $30,000, not $150,000. The challenger said Goodell was not being factual and was exaggerating the numbers. The incumbent then fought back with the following dialogue.
''You've come out with a press release supporting the Fair Elections Act. You've gone online saying you support it. I'm surprised when you say I'm lying or misleading the public. Section 14-210 of the act is very clear. The sum is $150,000. It is repeated later as well. Have you read this bill?'' Goodell asked.
''I thought it was up to $30,000. I think the $150,000 is too much and would amend it,'' Mueller replied
''My question is 'Have you read this?''' Goodell asked again.
''I looked at it. Did I read every word in it, no, but I looked at it,'' Mueller responded.
''Would it help you if I showed you a copy of the bill. Would that help your recollection?'' Goodell asked.
''No, I heard you say the 150 (thousand),'' Mueller said.
''You also said I was wrong. There is a copy of the bill. It frustrates me when I have the bill in front of me, and I read from the bill in front of me, and you accuse me of being wrong. Obviously, you haven't read this bill or don't understand it,'' Goodell concluded.