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April 26, 2013

Coalition presses for campaign finance reform

Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — The Clean Air Coalition, two local elected officials and a handful of other progressive groups continued their campaign for fair state elections Thursday morning at a press conference outside of the Board of Elections office in downtown Buffalo. 

The coalition announced their support for the fair elections bill at a demonstration at the beginning of the month in front the of Huntley power plant, just down the road from Tonawanda Coke — the plant that has recently been found guilty of violating two federal environmental laws. 

“We’ve seen how big money can take over the political system, and we want to join Gov. Andrew Cuomo in support of this bill,” the director of the coalition, Erin Heaney, said Thursday. “The voices of corporations are too strong ... Tonawanda Coke has given $50,000 to politicians in recent years, and they are not the only ones.”

Democratic State Assemblyman Sean Ryan, whose district covers portions of Buffalo and the south towns, agreed with Heaney and encouraged the legislature in Albany to approve the fair elections proposal.

“Things can get sticky when you are arguing with someone, and then they offer to give you money,” Ryan said. 

Ryan also pointed to specific issues with the state’s current elections. 

“U.S. senators represent 19 million people, and I represent 133,000. But under the current rules, you can give me more money than a U.S. senator,” he said. “This is just one measure that should help with this problem, and I will continue pushing to have it move forward in the upcoming legislative session.” 

The current state bill would institute limitations on contributions, implement stronger controls for those that skirt the system and set real-time disclosure of campaign-related activity. It is based off New York City’s model, in which the city instituted matching public funding for small donor contributions. 

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