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Campaign reform advocates protest state Senate Republicans in Syracuse

Ellen Abbott
A Demand Democracy campaign across New York State is encouraging state Senate Republicans to approve a list of campaign finance reform proposals.

A Demand Democracy campaign across New York is encouraging state Senate Republicans to approve a list of campaign finance reform proposals. Jonah Minkoff-Zern of Public Citizen, which is organizing the campaign, said the focus in Syracuse is on Sen. John DeFransisco, the second-most powerful figure in the state Senate.

"He and the other Republicans who are in leadership have power to pass this legislation this week," Minkoff-Zern said. "The last week of the legislative session here in New York. We’re here to protest their lack of action.”

The campaign is calling for publicly funded elections, a modernization of the state’s voting process and comprehensive finance reform that would include the elimination of the use of limited liability corporations, which allow big-money donors to make unlimited donations to candidates. The Assembly has passed legislation closing those loopholes. Protesters in front of the State Office Building in Syracuse Tuesday say Senate Republicans haven’t moved and have the power right now to make this go away.

"It would be an easy action for them to close this loophole and stop the hundreds of thousands of dollars that individuals are now able to give candidates," Minkoff-Zern said.

Minkoff-Zern also criticizes Gov. Andrew Cuomo for what he calls a lack of leadership on the issue.   

Joining Public Citizen, members of the Syracuse for Sanders organization spokesman Andy Mager said Sanders supporters, who watched their candidate run without the help of big donors, don’t want that emphasis on campaign reform to wither away.

"We need to build on that momentum and concern that comes from the Sander’s campaign, as well as many other parts o the community to say now is the time to move forward and make democracy meaningful," Mager said.

He suggests that an a series of reforms before primary season would have made a difference in the outcome.

“We think that if such a system had been in place, Bernie would have been the presumptive nominee at this point," Mager said. "There has been all kind of irregularities here in New York state and around the country, which had a significant impact on where we are today.”

Among other things, Sanders supporters are urging for reforms such as publicly funded elections, a modernization of New York’s voting processes and an expansion of voting rights.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.