NYC
10/11/2012 11:47 am ET | Updated Oct 12, 2012

Sam Waterston Jumps Into New York Campaign Finance Fight

NEW YORK -- Former "Law & Order" star Sam Waterston is returning to the rough and tumble world of New York politics. But he is not reprising his role as District Attorney Jack McCoy -- instead, he is appearing in an ad for public financing of state elections.

"Today in our broken system, political candidates raise huge contributions from a few wealthy donors," Waterston says in the ad, a spot for the Fair Elections campaign released Thursday. "You can bet those fat cat CEOs, millionaire lobbyists and multi-billion dollar corporations have their own interests in mind. Middle-class working Americans' interests? Not so much."

Instead of that current "broken" system, Waterston and Fair Elections are calling for a switch to a campaign finance framework where candidates could voluntarily choose to accept only small-money donations from ordinary supporters, to be matched by public funding.

While clean elections have their critics -- some claim that a similar system in Arizona created a far-right legislature there -- supporters in New York hope they can put a stop to stories like that of Leonard Litwin, a reclusive real estate magnate born in 1916 who has spent $900,000 on candidates this election cycle.

Litwin has given without much respect for party in the past, but this year he seems determined to help Republicans keep control of the New York State Senate so they can oppose efforts to toughen affordable housing requirements for real estate developers.

The Working Families Party, which supports increasing the number of affordable units that must be created for developers to receive a special tax break, is one of the partner organizations on the Fair Elections campaign.

"Leonard Litwin is New York's own Sheldon Adelson," said WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor. "His big spending on politics is an outrage, and the fact that it's legal doesn't make it less outrageous. New Yorkers deserve a political system that gives voice to every voter, instead of allowing money men like Litwin to drown us out."

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