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This is What Pay-For-Play Looks Like

Metro Justice will be holding a press conference later today to discuss the newest report by Citizen Action of New York on how money influences policy in the State of New York. I’ve been given an advanced copy to look over, and it’s pretty stark.

I think most of us readily recognize that money buys influence in the halls of power. However, such statements become axioms without the data to back them up: we all assume it to be true, but how can we prove it?

Well, Citizen Action looked at five major pieces of legislation before the Senate and Assembly. Helpfully, these bills are before the legislature once again in 2009, giving the legislature what Citizen Action calls “another opportunity to consider the merits over the need to raise cash for their campaigns.” In short, the report reveals that lobbying groups for the industries involved in each bill outspent lobbying groups for consumers and citizens by a whopping 9-to-1 margin. In the case of the recent discount drug bill, 99.99% of the money came from corporate lobbyists from “Big Pharma,” or about $1,100,000 dollars.

That’s declarative, no?

The study concludes with this:

This report provides five compelling examples of why we need to change the current system of private funding of elections in New York. The legislative fights over each of these bills are case studies of how the voices of average New Yorkers are now drowned out by campaign contributions from industries with an interest in legislation. In these 5 cases, and in many other instances, legislation that average citizens need and want gets buried in committee. Other times, as in the 2007 ticket broker fight we featured in this report, bad legislation contrary to the public interest is passed, often without serious public input. . . The case for public funding of elections is of course just as compelling today. And, given the moves in both houses of the Legislature to advance campaign finance reform, we have every reason to be optimistic that our state leaders have gotten the message.

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.