At a little after 7pm on a rainy October 23rd, the issue of political corruption in New York State was directly addressed at Atomic Tom’s located across from the Binghamton bus terminal, at 200 State Street. Some 30 people filled the space, in need of much renovation, of which more than half were apparently seniors and the rest 20 something’s. That total also included 12 event speakers and event performers, but did not include Mayor Matt Ryan, 4th District Councilwoman Lea Webb, or Congressional candidate Dan Lamb.
The event was billed, in a mailer we received,
“Enoung Is Enough!! From Buffalo to Binghamton to Albany and everywhere in between, we are taking our Corruption Show on the road to show what happens when we don’t hold Greedy politicians accountable for their actions.” – mailed by Citizen Action of New York
The purpose of the Caravan of Corruption (Caravan), as the event was called, is to promote fair elections in New York. The means of doing this is primarily by passage of legislation that would reform the campaign finance laws in the State. The event highlighted that corporations, often singling out the oil & gas industry, are a bane to fair elections and remove the priority of elected politicians from the public to the funding corporations provide.
It’s an issue that has generally bipartisan support, and is often discussed every election cycle. In fact it was a major theme of the 2008 presidential election cycle – until Senator McCain and then-Senator Obama both accepted funding that was otherwise in dispute. For New York State, the Assembly passed the 2012 Fair Election Act (the Bill in the State Senate is S7036A-2011) which would allow, as an example:
Senate: Must collect not less than $20,000 from at least 200 matchable contributions made up of sums of up to $250 per individual contributor who resides in New York state including at least $12,500 from at least 125 individual contributors who reside in the senate district in which the seat is to be filled.
Eligible contributions up to $250 are marched at the rate of $6 for every $1.
The legislation, like the issue, has merit. This is especially true when its considered that New York has had 2500 cases of corruption-related charges imposed against elected politicians since 1976, and 15 cases since 2002 – according to the Caravan as researched by the Center for Working Families. But the event was not limited to just that cause.
Before the event began, we were aware of conversation highlighting the woes of hydrofracking, just called fracking in NYS. This was further confirmed by the press release which noted a speaker for the event, Issac Silberman-Gorn who is the Environmental Organizer for Citizen Action of New York which opposes fracking. Citizen Action is a pro-Democrat organization it should be noted.
When we asked why there was no representation of pro-fracking anti-corruption organizations or individuals, the response by Sean Collins, IT Communications for Citizen Action in Albany, was that corporations already had a voice that was clearly out, and the event was meant to give a voice to the community.
This may explain why there was no representation from the Tea Party organizations, who are very vocal in their opposition to outside influences on government. The event was in essence a pro-Democrat platform, which does not take away from the message of campaign finance reform. Still this was a weak point in the core of the message.
The tone of the event was clearly set by Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan. The first speaker of the night at the event, he spoke at length against the current financing status quo, fracking, and State Senator Tom Libous. Libous is the subject of an ethics probe, which Mayor Ryan supports, but has not been charged with any crime. Mayor Ryan left that out of his scathing attack on the State Senator.
[see video on side of article]
In addition to Mayor Ryan, Binghamton City Councilwoman Lea Webb spoke briefly. She highlighted the need to support both campaign financing reform as well as the other issues related to that one, while reflecting back on the theme of the Liberal response to the Tea Party – the Occupy Movement.
[See video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LKq1wZPrGM or VASS political]
Perhaps the strongest speaker of the night was Larry Parham, who failed to disclose his work for Tariq Abdelazim’s campaign to be elected Broome County Executive. He made the most impassioned and least partisan appeal to reform a broken system that has taken the public out of the political process to great extent. His example of politicians losing contact and accountability with constituents clearly struck a chord with all at the event.
[See video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-_ipoeO_5E or VASS political]
Lastly, NY 22 Congressional District candidate Dan Lamb made an appearance. Mr. Lamb had just arrived from a debate in Utica with incumbent Rep. Richard Hanna, and spoke about his efforts to compete in the unlevel playing field. Mr. Lamb very effectively shone a light on how, allegedly, Rep. Hanna used his monetary influence to restrict Mr. Lamb from gaining access to television coverage (Rep. Hanna disputes this – the email in question can be seen here)
[See video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUfCj6XzS_c or VASS political]
In all, even with the hint of partisan preferences, the theme of the Caravan of Corruption hit the mark. There are serious problems with the way New York elections are funded. Campaign finance reforms can help to garner more fair elections. The issue deserves far more attention, and voters need to make themselves heard about how serious they believe the issue to be.
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