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Tech Entrepreneurs to Cuomo: Change Campaign Finance

A mix of tech entrepreneurs, investors and advocates asked for a move toward "small-d democracy" in a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
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More than 30 of New York’s technorati recently sent a petition to Governor Andrew Cuomo urging him to shift the state’s campaign finance laws toward public financing and an emphasis on small donors.

Backed by signatures from Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley, Gilt Groupe CEO Kevin Ryan and Union Square Ventures co-founder Fred Wilson, the letter argues for a campaign fundraising system that would “encourage candidates to rely on everyday voters for their campaign funds.”

The mix of tech founders, investors and advocates don’t detail a specific plan of how to change campaign finance laws in the letter released Thursday. But they hint that the campaign donor system should look a little more like the platforms they use to fund tech projects or share code:

On crowd-funding platforms like Kickstarter, thousands of New Yorkers are financing each other's creative businesses and projects, pooling small donations to fund big dreams. On code-sharing platforms engineers are helping each other by sharing and improving open-source software tools. It is time to bring this same way of doing things to campaign finance in NY State, and create a national model that will strengthen small-d democracy.

One of the letter’s signees, New York Tech Meetup executive director Nate Westheimer, said the letter was a “broad but specific” push for campaign finance reform.

“Broadly speaking, the Internet shows the power of the individual and the crowd versus the concentration of power around the size of your wallet or corporation,” Westheimer told Inc. “We didn’t want to say it’s our way or the highway, but we wanted to make sure people knew where the tech industry’s values were.”

As it turns out, tech leaders aren’t the only ones advocating a move away from special interests and big money donors in political campaigns.

At the Social Venture Network’s inaugural Hall of Fame event recognizing social entrepreneurs Tuesday, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s turned up with backpacks full of stamps with a similar anti-corruption message: “Stamp money out of politics.”

Last updated: Nov 16, 2012

MATTHEW WONG | Staff Writer

Matthew Wong is a digital journalist whose work has also appeared in Dow Jones VentureWire and The Wall Street Journal.




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