Mijin Cha

Mijin Cha is a senior policy analyst at the Demos Sustainable Progress Initiative. She is the author of The New York City Green Collar Jobs Roadmap and has written for the Georgetown International Law Review and the Albany Law Environmental Outlook Journal.

Recent Articles

A California Study Gets Same Day Registration Wrong

In response to a declining voter turnout rate, California recently implemented big reforms to help boost the turnout rate: online registration, same day registration (SDR), and relaxing the vote-by-mail deadline. A recent report by the Public Policy Institute of California analyzed the impact of the changes and claims that while online registration and the relaxed vote by mail deadline were worthwhile reforms, SDR might not be. The SDR analysis in the PPIC report, however, is flawed in fundamental ways that negate its conclusions about SDR. For starters, there are serious issues with the methodology of the report. As Barry Burden , a leading academic on SDR, wrote to me in an email about the PPIC report: Skeptical readers of the report should ask more questions about the methodology. The appendix does not provide sufficient detail about how the analysis was done. It's not even clear which states are categorized as having SDR. Table B3 has only 12 observations (6 states across 2 years...

If New York Didn’t Have One of the Best Systems of Small-Donor Public Financing ...

(Flickr/Johannes Valkama)
Last week, we talked about the role that outside spending played in the New York City Council race and how of the 20 candidates Jobs for New York supported, 16 won. However, as Mark Schmitt at The New Republic pointed out , over half of the candidates Jobs for New York supported also had the support of the Working Families Party, who are often on the opposite side of the real estate debate. According to Common Cause’s scorecard , both groups supported the same 13 candidates, the vast majority of whom won their races. It’s unclear why Jobs for New York would support candidates that also have the backing of their opponents—perhaps they were just shrewdly banking on the winners—but it is clear that the group’s spending highlights the rise of outside spending and the importance of public financing. Jobs for New York’s spending raises two issues: One, as Schmitt points out, New York City at least has a public financing system allows small donors to offset some of the impact of outside...

Outside Money Wins in New York City Elections

Last week, we highlighted how the outside money group, Jobs for New York, was dominating the New York City Council races. So, how did they do? Not too shabby—of the 20 candidates they supported , 16 won , two are still too close to call, and two more were unsuccessful. Let’s look at the two races that are too close to call, Council District 19 and Council District 36. In Council District 19, the chart below shows the level of outside funding. Jobs for New York contributed over $324,000 to Paul Vallone’s campaign, it also spent over $21,000 in opposition spending against Shafran. Vallone won. In Council District 36, a similar spending pattern emerges. Currently Robert Cornegy is leading, but Kirsten Foy is less than 100 votes behind and the race has not been called either way. Let’s assume Cornegy wins and Foy loses. Jobs for New York would have supported 17 successful candidates, which is an 85 percent success rate. It’s hard to quantify the impact of outside spending, but...

Spitzer Is Dead Wrong on Public Financing

(Flickr/Timothy Krause)
Former Governor Eliot Spitzer announced his run for NYC Comptroller yesterday and this morning on the Brian Lehrer show, he attacked his opponent, Scott Stringer, for opting into public financing. Spitzer said , “He (Stringer)’ll be spending your money, I’ll be spending my own.” This characteristic of public financing is misleading and wrong. In fact, public financing is one of the only tools constituents have to combat the corrosive influence of money in our electoral system. New York City’s public financing system has successfully diversified the donor base and has brought in more donors of color and more small donors. As the graph below shows , the average contribution for candidates participating in public financing is a fraction of non-participating candidates. Diversifying the donor base brings more voices into electoral politics and can start to reverse the dominance of affluent interests and priorities. In the latest Atlantic survey on American values, nearly 60 percent of...

Governor Cuomo Announces Campaign Finance Reform Package

Flickr/saebaryo
Yesterday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his own proposal for public financing of campaigns. The governor’s proposal adds to several others currently under consideration to get money out of the electoral system in the state. After a year of high-profile corruption scandals and arrests , it’s clear that something must be done. In early April, the state senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (a breakaway group of Democratic senators that joined with Republicans to give the GOP control over the state senate) issued a proposal for campaign finance reform. Among the highlights, the proposal completely bans corporate contributions, eliminates transfers between state parties and individual political committees, and increases disclosure requirements. The proposal also eliminates party “housekeeping” accounts, which are used to finance campaign related costs, such as overhead, office space, and utilities. There is currently no limit to the amount of contributions these committees...

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