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NYSNYS NEWS: Advocates calling for campaign finance reform invoke Jesus Christ, Andrew Cuomo and Barack Obama.
NYSNYS News
NYSNYS NEWS: Advocates calling for campaign finance reform invoke Jesus Christ, Andrew Cuomo and Barack Obama.

By Kyle Hughes
NYSNYS News


ALBANY, N.Y. (April 2) Invoking Jesus Christ, Barack Obama and Andrew Cuomo, advocates of tighter controls on political money rallied outside the Capitol Thursday, one day after legislators passed yet another bill to drain the ethical swamp.

"Jesus went to the cross because he saw a social order that benefited the very few at the top and took advantage of the many at the bottom," said Sara Niccoli of the Labor-Religion Coalition of NYS. "This is the fundamental teaching of Christianity."

"This lesson for us is we need to walk in the Capitol of New York state," she added, drawing cheers from other activists at the noontime rally with the scriptural reference to Jesus driving money-changers from the temple during Passover. "We need to walk into the Capitol of Washington, D.C. and we need to cast out the profiteers. Money exists in a place it should not in the United States."

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-Amsterdam) said that special interest "dark money" influencing politics must be banned and campaign spending that businesses use to obtain lucrative federal government contracts must be disclosed.

"If we're going to get progressive policy done, if we are going to move forward in progressive fashion and grow our economy and strengthen the great many of us, the middle income community, there needs to be campaign finance reform fairness," Tonko said. "There needs to be contractor accountability and transparency."

Tonko served in the Assembly for 25 years and said he never took outside work during that time. "I made it work and it was about representing people," Tonko said.

"We call ourselves a democracy now when there is all this money that goes into politics," said Wayne Bayer, a vice president of the Public Employees Federation union. "It's buying influence. It's buying, perhaps, bribery."

The rally organized by MoveOn.org was held on the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that permitted corporations and wealthy individuals to funnel more money into political campaign.

The organizers said that decision was part of the same ethical morass that has led to corruption charges against former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, Senate President Pedro Espada, Comptroller Alan Hevesi and other elected officials in Albany. Cartoon caricature cutoffs of the three were displayed along with other politicians at the rally.

Speakers called on President Obama to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose their political spending, and on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislators to enact sweeping campaign finance reform.

The new budget passed this week includes more disclosure and new restrictions on using campaign money for personal items, but advocates have derided the measures as weak. They said the changed made nibble around the edges of the problem and will do nothing to stop the corruption pervasive to state government.

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