By Tom Precious
ALBANY -- "Clean Money, Clean Elections'' was the name of the bill Sen. Malcolm Smith introduced at least as far back as 2008 and as recently as last year. At its heart: public financing of campaigns, but also strict new enforcement to go after politicians who cheat the system.
In the aftermath of his arrest on corruption charges yesterday, we thought you might like to read the thinking, or at least past thinking, of Malcolm Smith on the state of politics in New York. It is contained in the "plain-language'' bill memo accompanying his election finance bill, which died in committee year after year.
Here are some quotable tidbits Smith used to promote his bill:
"Clean Money, Clean Elections'' stands for the simple notion that votes are more important than dollars.''
"This undoubtedly broken system also fuels the public perception that special interests "pay to play. That perception undermines the electorate's confidence in the democratic process and gives rise to citizen apathy and cynicism.''
"Providing a voluntary "clean money, clean elections'' campaign finance system in New York state will improve our democratic process by eliminating the deleterious influence of large contributions on the political process, removing access to wealth as a major determinant of a citizen's influence within the political process and restoring the meaning of the principle of 'one person, one vote.'''
The bill, Smith wrote, would also improve the long-criticized and lax enforcement of campaign finance laws in New York by creating a new independent campaign finance office to put in place "rigorous'' enforcement tools to go after violators. Voters can be comforted, Smith wrote, that the new enforcement tool would go after cheats "and that the abuses of public trust that make this act so vital to enact will be addressed swiftly and to the fullest extent of the law.''