In the wake of a series of political corruption cases out of Albany in recent weeks, campaign finance reform has become a popular issue in the state capitol. Among the proposals for reforming the way money is used in political campaigns, is one from the Independent Democratic Conference. The group is wrapping up a set of statewide hearings on their plan today in Albany.
Senator Dave Valesky of Oneida, a founding member of the IDC, calls their proposal the "most aggressive" of the overhaul plans that are floating around Albany. And after a handful of hearings across the state, he says the one word that describes the public's view when it comes to money and politics, is "frustration."
"As we think back to elections, and the ads, and tremendous amounts of money that are being poured in to candidates, to committees, from out of the area, from out of the state, independent expenditures, all this sort of thing. People are frustrated," said Valesky.
Among other things, the IDC proposal would limit campaign contributions, create a public campaign finance system and eliminate a provision that allows cross endorsements of political candidates. Valesky admits the proposals might not have made a difference in the recent corruption cases out of Albany, but he says if nothing else, it's time for change.
"When you think about the fact that we have not had a major reform of our campaign finance laws since the 1970s, we are long past due in terms of getting really serious about how our elections are funded and conducted in the state," said Valesky. "We think there are a lot of common sense solutions that may not have prevented some of the examples of corruption that is going on right now, and we continue to hammer away on that. But we can certainly make the system a lot better. We can encourage people to run for office, get more people involved. And I think all of that is a good thing."
The IDC is a group of four breakaway Democrats that shares power with Republicans in the state Senate. The GOP is opposed to the public financing facet of the IDC proposal. Valesky is optimistic that in the coming weeks, negotiations on all sides will lead to a significant election finance reform by the time the term ends in June.