© 2023 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Activists call on Katko to support campaign finance reform

Ellen Abbott
Dana Balter, left, who lost to Rep. John Katko in the 2018 election, speaks at a rally in Syracuse Thursday

As the new session of Congress opens in Washington, activists are continuing to keep the pressure on central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus). At a rally in Syracuse Thursday, they focused on the issue of campaign finance reform.

A few dozen people gathered in front of Katko’s office in downtown Syracuse with one message. They want Katko to vote for H.R. 1,  a package of good government and election reforms proposed by Democrats.

Organizer Dana Balter had a firsthand look how campaign donations work when she ran against Katko in 2018. She says that experience made her realize how important it was to get big money out of politics.

"When somebody is giving you a million dollars, you’re going to take their phone call. When someone gives you five dollars, you are not going take their phone call," said Balter. "And the vast majority of people who you are representing as a congressperson are people who might give you five dollars or even not that much.   Those are the people you need to be listening to."

H.R. 1 would end the dominance of big money in politics, and includes other initiatives like ending gerrymandering, and expanding voting rights.  Even if it passes in the Democratic-controlled House, it’s unlikely to make it through the Republican-controlled Senate. 

Katko wouldn’t comment on H.R. 1 because it hasn’t been introduced in the House yet. It could be introduced as early as Friday.

In an email, a spokesperson said Katko is committed to working across party lines to produce real campaign finance reform.

Katko did break ranks with Republicans on a number of votes Thursday. He, along with Finger Lakes Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning), were one of three Republicans to vote for a package of rules changes House leaders say will make it easier to introduce bipartisan legislation, among other things.

Katko also voted in favor of a bill to fund the government through Sept. 30, and a stop-gap spending bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. Neither bill included any money for a border wall. Both measure passed the House easily, but are not expected to be taken up by the Senate. President Trump has threatened to veto the legislation. 

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.