It’s hardly a revelation that big money plays a dominant-if not, too dominant- role in politics today.
Super PACS, Wall Street ties and the unlimited dollar amounts that comprise campaign contributions have not only diminished the political influence of everyday Americans, but seemingly turned politicians into lackeys for the rich and well-connected, as opposed to stewards of the general public.
So says Matthew Edge, founder and executive director of Money Out of Politics-Democracy, or MOP-Democracy, a grassroots organization that seeks to make campaign finance reform a reality in New York state.
“I’ve been involved in the movement to get money out of politics for about 10 years now, and I’ve been seeing a consistent pattern where politicians support campaign finance reform publicly and then kill it behind closed doors,” Edge said. “Ninety-six percent of the American people support (fairer elections) … we just have a fundamental disconnect between our representatives and our interests.”
On Tuesday, Edge and Matthew Hillyer, a MOP volunteer, displayed a roadside banner on the parking garage at the corner of East Fourth and Spring streets. The adjacent “I Love Lucy” mural notwithstanding, the banner was a no-nonsense call for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to keep Fair Elections-the campaign finance reform act-in the 2014 budget.
“It is my opinion that (Cuomo) will cut Fair Elections from the budget if he can get away with it,” said Edge, indicating that Cuomo – with his 2016 presidential ambitions – may find it hard to break away from his wealthy donors. “By putting these signs all over the state, we’re calling his bluff and raising the stakes.”
In bright blue lettering, the banner also displayed “99.13,” referring to the percentage of money that came from donations of $1,000 or more. According to Edge, 80.97 percent of money came from $10,000 or more and 45.06 percent from $40,000 or more.
Edge, who intends to culminate his banner campaign in Albany at the end of March, hopes Cuomo will embrace the public financing of elections, a system which will match small donor donations with public funds, thus increasing their influence in a campaign. This, he said, will ensure politicians are not only more accountable to their constituents, but more privy to their interests.
“This is a movement to give the 99 percent a voice in our democracy,” Edge said. “We are sick of empty promises, we want action.”