By Ian Benjamin
With the November elections in sight, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., used her visit to UAlbany's East Campus this past week to establish her positions on issues ranging from the price of gas to officials' financial transparency.
She vowed to combat gas price gouging through the support of investigations that would serve to "create more accountability and transparency," a connecting theme in her many remarks.
In response to the release of the president's tax returns in April, and his likely Republican opponent Mitt Romney's refusal to do the same, Gillibrand said she seeks to "lead by example," but that "every candidate will make their own determination about what's best for their constituents and what level of transparency and accountability they should be under."
Since she was first elected to public office, Gillibrand has consistently made public her earmark requests, meetings and personal finances.
"As this debate has continued to grow, it seems to me that people have lost faith in Washington, and so they are looking for more transparency, more accountability," she said.
Continuing her theme of accountability, Gillibrand lashed out at the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens' United, blaming the court's ruling for the current lack of campaign funding transparency, with a specific focus on the anonymity surrounding broadcast campaign advertisements.
"Tens of millions of dollars are being spent across the country, and they are mostly being spent on negative ads," Gillibrand said. "The people who watch these ads look at Washington and say "Washington is even more broken than it's ever been before.' It undermines people's confidence in government."
A study by the Wesleyan Media Project, an independent university research group, found that 70 percent of the campaign advertisements aired so far in the 2012 presidential campaign were negative, a drastic increase from the previous presidential campaign year, 2008, when only 9.1 percent of all ads were negative. The study categorized negative ads as those that mentioned an opponent. Gillibrand promotes mandatory advertising disclosures.
She also expressed concern about the federal farm bill and local repercussions of its reduced food stamp allocation. She said that even under the version that passed the Senate, about 300,000 families in New York are going to get $90 less a month.
"That's the groceries for the last week for that family. That's a lot of very hungry, at-risk children," she said.
The Senate version of the bill reduced food stamp spending by about $400 million a year.
The farm bill is the federal government's primary agricultural and food policy legislation, passed every five years. The farm bill that has stalled in the House would cut food stamp spending by about 2 percent, or $1.6 billion a year, largely through cutting policies that make it easier for states to bestow benefits. So far, House GOP leaders have avoided bringing the bill to the floor to avoid its defeat.
The junior senator from New York, Democrat Gillibrand was appointed to the Senate in 2009 by Gov. David Paterson to fill the seat vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and was then elected to complete Clinton's term. She will be facing Republican Wendy Long in the Nov. 6 election for a full, six-year term.