A week ago, Marc Landis contacted Ken in regards to use of Independent Expenditures (IE's) in this election. Below is Ken's response.
June 25, 2013
Candidate for City Council 57 West 84th Street
New York, NY 10024
Thank you for your letter regarding the use of Independent Expenditures (IE's) in this election. I applaud your effort to raise awareness about the influx of money and influence in our political system. However, instead of just focusing on IE's, I believe there is more we can do to advocate for a truly level playing field and set an example for campaigns across our City.
As candidates for public office, we can have a real impact through our actions, more so than by signing letters. That is why I would like to urge you and the other candidates in our race to take the following steps. If we take these actions, it would go a long way in showing West Siders that we are truly committed to ensuring that this race is "based on a vigorous campaign among us, the candidates" as your letter suggests.
1) REJECT PAC MONEY: You have received more money than any other candidate in our race from Political Action Committees. The influence of PAC money is at the root of the challenges that we face with regard to reforming our campaign finance laws. I have stated publicly that I will not accept PAC money in this campaign, and I urge all candidates in this race to reject such contributions and to return them. There is no room for PAC money on the Upper West Side.
2) URGE YOUR SUPPORTERS TO REJECT IE'S: While I appreciate you reaching out to me to call for IE’s not to be used in this election, it is worth noting that I have no control over this since IE's are inherently Independent. Also, to date, I have not received any such support. However, some of your supporters have in fact helped fund IE’s this election. I encourage you to send your letter to them and request that they abandon such support of IE’s. You are in a unique position to set an example on this topic, and I urge you to do so by declining their support until they stop supporting IE’s.
3) DISCLOSE AND ACCOUNT FOR SUPPORT FROM POLITICAL CLUBS: One of the most pervasive and unaccounted for sources of influence on our local political system is the role of Political Clubs. As Citizens Union noted in a comprehensive report in May of this year, many such clubs raise a great deal of money, do not disclose where the contributions come from, and directly coordinate in races like ours. As a District Leader for a club, I would urge you to take the following steps to help reform this system:
a) Resign as District Leader, because it is inappropriate to hold such a position while also being a candidate for office,
b) Join me in supporting the recommendations of the Citizens Union for club reform (steps listed below),
c) Publicly disclose the terms of your lease arrangement for the office space you use as a “Campaign Headquarters” at 57 West 84th Street, which also serves as your club’s base of operation. Such benefits and direct coordination should be completely transparent, and your campaign should account for such in-kind contributions.
Marc, these are three very tangible steps that you can immediately take that would go a lot further in promoting clean elections than the letter you sent to me and the other candidates. When I entered this race, I was able to raise the money necessary in one filing from almost 850 donors, and no PACS. Since then, I stood at subway stations for almost a year and stated I would not accept PAC money because of my commitment to clean elections, honest campaigning, listening to voters and reducing the influence of money in politics. My campaign has been working hard for over a year to compete against the advantages you have as the establishment candidate who benefits from relationships that operate without accountability or transparency.
While it is clear that your original letter was well intentioned, it unfortunately, does not stand on its merits. You are, in fact, in a unique position to take a lead on this topic. I urge you and the other candidates to move immediately on the three steps I suggest above. The Upper West Side is thirsting for independent leadership and new ideas, and we need leaders who genuinely believe in reform.
Thank you for starting this conversation, I look forward to continuing to have it over the course of this campaign.
Citizens Union recommends the following solutions to address the lack of compliance with campaign finance disclosure laws by political clubs and potential coordination between candidates – including their candidate committees and agents – and political clubs.
1. The State Board of Elections should notify all political clubs of their obligation to register as a political committee and file required campaign finance reports.
2. Offer an amnesty program enabling clubs to register and file reports dating back one year while paying the lesser of a fine of $1,000 for failing to register and $1,000 for failing to file required reports or whatever the clubs actually owe for noncompliance.
3. The State Board of Elections should receive the $1.935 million it requested in a budget “side letter” to Budget Director Robert Megna for Fiscal Year 2013‐2014 to hire personnel to fill 18 unfilled positions in the Board’s Enforcement and Campaign Finance Unit.
4. The State Board should promulgate rules pursuant to State Election Law Article 14(9)(3) defining more precisely what is coordination between a political club and candidate committee is.
5. Require political clubs, when registered as party or constituted committees, to adhere to the law requiring them to devise a formula for allocating expenditures to individual candidates when making expenditures on behalf of multiple candidates funded by political contributions to the club.
6. Governor Cuomo and the state legislature should pass comprehensive campaign finance reform that includes structural reforms related to disclosure and enforcement including:
a. A new, independent oversight and enforcement body with responsibility for public financing and all campaign finance law administration.
b. Give the Attorney General should be given the power to initiate investigates and prosecute alleged violations of the Election Law.
c. Allow only campaign committee should be authorized per candidate per election.
d. Fines should be significantly increased for exceeding contribution limits and violating campaign finance disclosure laws.