Election Rigging New York Style: Part 1 Controller’s Debate

Four candidates earned a place on the ballot for NYS Comptroller but only two will be allowed to speak tonight in the debates sponsored by Citizen’s Union NY1 and YNN. Confidence in government is dismally low. The last elected NY Governor resigned in disgrace and his replacement was scandalized out of running for reelection by his own party.  NY’s government was named the worst in the country by the Brennan Center – again.  New York’s budget was passed 125 days late.

The Democrats and Republicans at all levels of government have dug us into this hole. Why does anyone think listening to them will get us out?

The Libertarian candidate John Gaetani and the Green candidate Julia Willebrand together filed approximately 60,000 signatures to earn their spots on this year’s ballot. Who are Citizen’s Union, YNN and NY1 to promote the dysfunctional status quo candidates and in doing so disenfranchise 60,000 New York voters who signed petitions on behalf of Willebrand and Gaetani?

Apparently the debate’s sponsors did have some criteria for inclusion though it’s not clear to me how and if all the candidates were even notified. When I ran for NYC Comptroller in 2005 I worked for weeks just to get information about debate criteria and got the runaround everywhere I went.

A glance at the criteria show that they are designed to guaranty an advantage to the best funded, best known candidates. (I got them second hand – I couldn’t find them in a quick web search).

 1. A statewide presence that is defined by actual candidate campaign offices in the state’s four largest cities. Having a simple PO Box address does not qualify

2. Demonstration of public support by registering 15 percent in at least two major statewide polls.

3. Having raised at least $50,000 from individual contributors and spent at least that much as well.

 Shouldn’t the sponsors consider the 60,000 signatures sufficient evidence of public support especially coming from candidates nominated by parties that consistently earn ballot access? Should physical offices be criteria in an age when even the status-quo parties have moved substantial parts of their campaigns to the internet? Should the sponsors have a financing requirement at a time when many people (less so Libertarians) think money is one of the main problems in politics? And shouldn’t they count the money spent on getting on the ballot?

Here is how Citizen’s Union describe themselves on their website.

Citizens Union of the City of New York is an independent, nonpartisan, civic organization of members who promote good government and advance political reform in the city and state of New York. For more than a century, Citizens Union has served as a watchdog for the public interest and an advocate for the common good. Citizens Union, which was recently described by the New York Times as the influential government watchdog group, works to ensure fair elections, clean campaigns, and open, effective government that is accountable to the citizens of New York.

Fair elections? Clean campaigns? OPEN EFFECTIVE GOVERNMENT?

How does excluding candidates who have together gathered 60,000 voters’ signatures promote open government?

How does excluding the third and fourth largest parties in the nation qualify as responsible journalism?

This is exactly the kind of irresponsible, narrow-minded blatantly partisan behavior that has brought our democracy to the brink of collapse.

Tonight’s debates should be canceled and rescheduled to include all candidates on the ballot. NY1, YNN and Citizen’s Union should conduct a review of their policies, standards and practices to avoid this kind of destructive and blatantly partisan behavior in the future.

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