Faith Leaders Letter
We know the electoral system will never be adequately responsive to voters, especially lower-income voters and communities of color, as long as election campaigns and public policymaking are strongly shaped by wealthy donors and corporate special-interest money.
This year, Governor Cuomo has made passing real campaign finance reforms, including public financing of elections a top priority. But if we are going to win real reform in New York, we'll need to build a lot of momentum and show that all kinds of people agree, and demand a change to the system.
We hope that you will add your name to a list of faith leaders to understand the real need to pursue a more fair, accountable and just system of elections and democracy in our state.
Use the form below the letter to add your name/congregation.
Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of the State of New York
New York State Capitol Building
Albany, New York 12224
Members of the New York State Senate and New York State Assembly
Legislative Office Building
Albany, New York 12247
Dear Governor Cuomo and Members of the New York State Legislature:
As faith leaders, we are called to build a society that promotes dignity for all people. That effort is undermined, however, when the rules governing the electoral process amplify the voice of a small segment of the population while diminishing that of the rest.
Our ancient traditions recognized the power of gifts to corrupt public officials and tip the scales of justice towards the wealthy and powerful. For example, the Torah prohibits judges from accepting gifts, for “gifts blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just” (Deuteronomy 16:19). In the New Testament, Jesus teaches, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). The Qur’an warns, “Do not usurp one another’s property by unjust means nor offer it to the judges so that you may devour knowingly and unjustly a portion of the good of others” (Surat Al-Baqarah, 2:188).
Existing campaign finance laws provide persons and groups with extraordinary wealth unfair influence over the political process by providing them with special access to elected officials. This ultimately results in legislative outcomes that reflect the needs of those with the financial means to make political contributions, and not the needs of the rest of the public. The 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission will surely amplify the voices of wealthy campaign donors and bring new powerful players to the fore at the expense of everyone else.
For these reasons, we believe our state legislature must address the problems of the current campaign finance system. We are inspired to hear that New York’s elected officials are taking a lead on this important issue. We understand Speaker Silver and the New York State Assembly has supported a bill that would institute a system of public campaign finance similar to the successful New York City program, for some time. Last month, we were even more encouraged to hear Governor Andrew Cuomo make reforming our campaign finance laws a priority for 2012 in his annual State of the State address.
Instituting a public-financing-of-elections system, meaningful enforcement and reasonable contributions limits would empower average people to participate in the political process, and would return the gaze of our elected officials solely to the needs of their districts and the state as a whole, rather than the narrow interests of those with significant financial resources for campaigns.
We pledge our support, as leaders of faith, to work among members of our congregations to encourage support for your efforts to bring about reform. We ask that you too, continue your strong and public commitment to campaign finance reform, led with a system of public financing of elections, and work together to enact such a law before the close of the 2012 legislative session. By doing so, we make a great stride toward reaching the dignity for all New Yorkers that our faith demands.