Moyers guest: Public campaign financing pushes voters to ‘have a little skin in the game’

By Samantha Kimmey
Friday, February 15, 2013 19:49 EDT
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Bill Moyers had Dan Cantor, the executive director of the progressive Working Families Party and Jonathan Soros, a lawyer and senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, on his show to discuss how to stop money from heavily influencing politics — specifically, public campaign financing.

Soros said that reforms regarding money and politics are now “on the table” in New York state.

Cantor explained that such reforms are necessary because “we need to create a system that voters themselves will have more confidence in. Because right now when you knock on doors people are, they’re pretty cynical that things can change.”

Soros said that the system in New York City, in which certain contributions up to $175 are matched six to one, has dramatically increased public participation in city races. “There are small contributions coming from every neighborhood, even the poorest neighborhoods in the city, people who are running for office are reaching out to their constituents, ordinary citizens, they’re having house parties in people’s living rooms,” he said.

In other words, public financing “means to me as a voter I have a little skin in the game and I’m going to pay attention to you.”

While Moyers pointed out that Bloomberg still spent his own money on his campaign, Soros said, “That’s true. But it did allow his opponent to run a credible campaign. And the election was pretty darn close.”

Soros went on to say that having more money than one’s opponent was not as important as simply reaching a certain threshold to become a viable candidate. “So the ambition isn’t to keep private money out. It’s to get enough public money in so that even when you have somebody who is not part of the system spending a lot, the other person gets to a threshold that makes it reasonable,” he continued.

Moyers pointed out that the “common argument” against public funding is that citizens do not want to pay for “politician’s ambitions.” Soros countered that such thinking was “penny wise and pound foolish” since public financing allows candidates not beholden to big corporations to win. He also said that polling at this point shows “voters are so disgusted with what they see in their politics that they’re willing to consider an alternative.”

The two then discussed a candidate supported by Working Families, Cecilia Tkaczyk, who beat a millionaire assemblyman by 18 votes for a New York state Senate seat. Cantor said she “absolutely” won because she vocally supported state-wide campaign finance reform.

“Somebody who gives $10 to a campaign, they’re more likely to show up and volunteer, they’re more likely to show up and vote, they’re more likely to follow what happens,” Soros said.

Watch the video, via billmoyers.com, below.

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