Groups urge constitutional amendment to push big money out of politics

Posted at: 04/28/2014 4:44 PM
Updated at: 04/28/2014 5:30 PM
By: Bill Lambdin

ALBANY - The halls and waiting rooms around the State Senate and the Assembly were nearly deserted Monday afternoon.

State legislators hadn't yet made their way back to the chambers.

But under the way political decisions are being made these days, the physical presence of lawmakers and lobbyists is often less important than the checks that are written in private functions, according to many, including grassroots citizen groups.

"Election spending from groups that don't disclose who their donors are has risen from 1% to 47% since 2006," said Michael Messina-Yauchzy of New York for Democracy.

A recent study by the New York Public Interest Research Group found that 170 campaign contributors donated more money last year than all the rest of New York's nearly 20 million citizens.

"And if they pick up the phone and call the Governor or call their senator, they get right through. You or I, we don't get right through, said Jonah Minkoff-Zern of Public Citizen's Democracy Is For People.

The right of corporations, unions, and rich people to give huge amounts of money, even in states where they have no voting residence, was recently established by the Supreme Court, 5 justices in favor, 4 against.

The coalition in Albany was fanning out to legislative offices, urging state lawmakers to add New York to a list that would ratify an amendment to the U-S Constitution to reverse what they see as the corrosive effects of big money.