There was no mistaking the difference between the small group picketing near George Amedore’s campaign fundraiser at the Mohawk Golf Club and the supporters attending the state Senate hopeful’s $1,000-a-ticket event Thursday.
The group of less than a dozen protestors waved small signs — some handwritten — at the corner of Union Street and the driveway leading up to the stately clubhouse hosting the campaign event. They stood in stark contrast to the pricey vehicles and well-heeled occupants pouring into the country club to see the Republican candidate in the newly created 46th Senate District.
Betty Head waved a neon-yellow sign with the words “money out of politics” written in black marker. The Altamont resident and member of the local chapter of MoveOn.org said she’s tired of the affluent pouring money into campaigns, especially when that funding is coming from outside the district of the candidate it is aimed at supporting.
“Our democracy has been corrupted by the influence of big money, and we feel it has to stop,” she said.
Amedore was singled out by Head and others supporting Fair Elections for New York because his top contributors came from New York City or Long Island, said Mark Emanatian, an organizer with Citizen Action of New York. Among them were seven downstate real estate development companies that gave $10,000 to the candidate.
“Our question is why is all this money coming in from out of the district and what is that money buying?” he asked.
Of course, Amedore isn’t the only candidate reaping the benefit of out-of-district donations, his campaign was quick to point out Thursday. Spokesman Kris Thompson said the majority of the money raised by Cecilia Tkaczyk —Amedore’s Democratic opponent — came from such donors, including several New York City-based political action committees.
And Amedore said the money he received from outside the district doesn’t mean he’s beholden to the donors. He said the financial support he receives is critical to getting his message out across the sprawling district, which stretches from Montgomery County to Ulster County.
“They are supporting a candidate that believes in helping New York get back in business,” he said after the fundraiser.
Amedore acknowledged the need for campaign finance reform and said he has backed initiatives to keep the process transparent. But until there’s a better system in place, he said the out-of-district donations are a necessary component of waging a successful campaign.
“It takes a tremendous amount of money to get your message out to represent the district that you’re going to serve,” he said.
Emanatian admits Amedore isn’t the only one grabbing the campaign cash and said the group plans on picketing other fundraisers around the Capital Region as the election season heats up. He said the big money pouring into state campaigns has created an electoral system where voters need to be wealthy in order to support a candidate.
“I’ve worked since I was a paperboy at 16 and I can’t afford $1,000 per plate,” he said. “I’m just hoping it’s really good food.”
Part of the solution could be implementing publicly financed campaigns, said Matt Edge, a Berne resident attending the protest. Along with others, he’s waging a door-to-door campaign to drum up support for a publicly financed campaign system and awareness of the politicians who want to maintain the status quo.
“The politicians can be against getting money out of politics only as long as the people don’t know about it,” he said.
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Categories: Schenectady County