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NYC: Guerilla theater and a skeptical state-of-the-guv message
Nearly a half century ago, anti-war activists began to call it "guerilla theater" when political messages were dramatized on the street. Over the weekend, a movement calling itself Money-Out Voters-In held a "day of action" targeting the campaign funding issues related to super PACs and the Supreme Court's "people as corporations" ruling in the Citizens United case. The show consisted of a mock wedding on Wall Street Saturday between a "bride," in formal gown festooned with dollar bills, and a "corporation," labeled "Koch Inc." for the billionaire industrialist brothers who contribute millions to causes such as cutting union organization down to size.
Some of the group's message was expressed by speakers earlier in the day at New York University's Kimmel Center. In one address, Bill Samuels, founder of the New Roosevelt Initiative, hailed the dramatically close, delayed victory of Sen.-elect Cecilia Tkaczyk to an upstate Senate seat after she ran on a platform of campaign finance reform as a priority. Samuels said she "almost lost" as popular Gov. Andrew Cuomo withheld his endorsement. Earlier in the week, an Albany analysis showed that nearly 80 percent of Cuomo’s campaign funds raised since taking office came from contributors of more than $10,000, with only 1 percent of donations under $1,000.
Samuels was applauded as he said of Cuomo from the rostrum, "In talking to his staff, they say, 'We're for campaign finance reform but we won't disarm.' We say, governor, we want you to pass 'fair elections' [bill] but we're not going to take your word, like in redistricting. We mean it now, and if you don't do it now, you're going to have a host of opponents that you never thought you'd have had -- and we won't be fooled again!"
Samuels cited his earlier suggestion to "box in" Cuomo by suggesting the use of casino licensing fees to fund public campaign matches. He spoke of "small donor empowerment." "There's no excuse for any Democrat, or the governor, not to pass some type of election reform in New York, and I hope we all demand it."
Other speakers addressed tactics to offset Citizens United constitutionally and legislatively. These included former New York City public advocate and author Mark Green; Rev. James A. Forbes, senior minister emeritus of Riverside Church; and activist and author Jeff Clements. Sponsors included Citizens Action, four city-based service and municipal unions, Move On and Common Cause.