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Rally against 'legalized bribery'

Protesters call for Fair Elections Act

Dave Palmer, executive director of the Center for Working Families, addresses the media about the ongoing legalized bribery in Albany. The rally, pictured above and below, drew several people from many different organizations in support of the Fair Elections Act. Photo by Matthew Dondiego.
June 10, 2013
Dozens of protesters donned dollar bill costumes and took to the Capitol lawn last Wednesday in the hope of getting the Fair Elections Act (S.4705-a) to the floor of the Senate before the end of the session.

The protest was comprised of several different groups including the Fair Elections for New York campaign, the anti-corruption group Represent. Us and Stamp Stampede, an organization that stamps anti-bribery messages onto dollar bills.

The law would provide for optional partial public financing of certain campaigns in the state. It has been in the Senate Elections Committee since May 7. Photo by Matthew Dondiego.
"We are tired of our democracy being put on an auction block," said Aaron Black of Money Out/Voters In. Black, a member of the Occupy movement, used the movement's signature "mic check" style chant to rally supporters.

"It's the legalized bribery in Albany that creates a culture that allows this kind of corruption," said Dave Palmer, executive director of the Center for Working Families. Palmer says that the overall goal is to give elected officials "the ability to look to small donors in order to get elected and the ability to ignore the big donors".

The protestors then began a march to the entrance of the Capitol however, with each passing step; the demonstration grew more and more disorganized. What began as several groups respectfully standing strong together for one clear cause quickly deteriorated to an angry unorganized mob on the third floor of the Capitol.

Outside the office of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, protestors were met by state police and the small amount of organization that was left among them dissipated, resulting in explicit chants directed at several offices; often times several different chants at once.

Unfortunately, for the Fair Elections for New York campaign, the respectful and organized rally that took place on the Capitol lawn moments earlier turned into disruptive and disjointed shouting inside the statehouse. When individual speakers would attempt to address the crowd, they were ignored. Out of confusion, a "Do your job" chant was transformed into a "Lose your job" chant, and once the crowd became bored, they moved on to the next office on the third floor of the Capitol to repeat the process.

The only solidarity left was their bitter distaste felt for every state worker who passed through the group. "I don't even know who this guy is, do your job," one protestor angrily yelled at a passing staffer.

The campaign finance bill, sponsored by Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, passed the Assembly in early May and if passed through the Senate and signed by the governor, the law would provide for optional partial public financing of certain campaigns in the state. It has been in the Senate Elections Committee since May 7.

"We need a vote on the Senate floor, the governor has said he's supportive; let's get them all in a room, negotiate and pass a bill this session," Palmer said.

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