Wednesday, April 12, 2017

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Campaign finance reform a simmering issue in Dutchess

POUGHKEEPSIE – Only seven resolutions were on the agenda for Tuesday night’s Dutchess County Legislature meeting, all adopted on unanimous or near-unanimous votes in under ten minutes. 

What took much longer was public comment on what is likely to be the next hot topic: Campaign finance reform.

The Lucille Pattison Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2017, named for a former county executive, has bipartisan sponsorship, authored by Democrat Joel Tyner and Republican Marc Coviello.

“I’ve been pushing that literally for 20 years; the last 14 years in the legislature,” Tyner said.  “Have never had a member of another party cosponsor.  Thank you Legislator Coviello.  I appreciate it.”

Tyner laid the law on the desks of legislators Tuesday night, but gave few details on what it would do.  There was, however, a good deal of citizen input from several who came for public comment, some with prepared statements.

Samuel Beckenhauer is president of the Vassar chapter of Democracy Matters.

“So a strong democracy requires that representatives are responsive to the will of their constituents,” Beckenhauer said.  “If the election is contingent on reflecting the will of the wealthiest donors, this quickly becomes impossible.  Even if they truly support the donors’ views, the appearance corruption is just as toxic as people no longer have faith in their political institutions.  Limiting the amount of large donations is the bare minimum and will keep candidates in touch with their constituents.”  

One speaker said this is needed to deter “plutocracy,” or rule by the wealthiest. 

Several called this a needed “first step.”

Tyner, who has previously complained that sometimes resolutions he proposes don’t show up in committee, said he hoped this will be on the May committee agendas.

 


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