Money in Politics in New York: January 18 Edition

The New York Times Editorializes In Favor of Corporate Disclosure

Reform NY reported last week about New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who is seeking disclosure of political contributions from corporationsthat the state pension fund holds stock in. DiNapoli has filed suit against Qualcomm, a computer chip producer, requesting information regarding its political involvement. Delaware law gives shareholders the right to inspect the books and records of a corporation for such information, and the New York State pension fund holds $378 million shares in the company. This week, The New York Times has come out in favor of DiNapoli’s effort. “It is bad enough that the flow of political money into American campaigns grows bigger by the year — the 2012 elections were the costliest ever. It’s even worse when the public is to be kept in the dark about who’s doing the spending. Big stockholders like New York’s pension funds can bring much-needed openness to a murky process.”

Siena Poll: Support for Campaign Finance Reform Still Strong and Wide

In the New Year, New Yorkers appear to support Governor Andrew Cuomo’s third year agenda by broad margins, with 71 percent viewing him as favorable, according to the latest Siena College poll. On the issue of campaign finance reform, New Yorkers demonstrate consistent support for the idea once again across various demographics. When asked about a statewide plan to adopt “a system of public campaign financing in New York that would limit the size of political contributions to candidates and use state money to match smaller contributions made to candidates for state offices,” 59 percent of voters backed the idea and only 36 percent opposed it. A majority of New York City residents, suburbanites and upstate dwellers, as well a large swath of voters across all age groups, races and religions showed support for the initiative. Disclosure of campaign donations above $500 within 48 hours received even greater approval from voters, with 79 percent behind it and merely 18 percent against. The Siena Research Institute report summed it up well: “While Republicans are closely divided on public campaign financing, it is supported by a majority of independents and two-thirds of Democrats, and more than three-quarters of voters from every party support quick disclosure of contributions greater than $500.”

Money in Politics in New York: January 11 Edition

State of the State: Gov. Cuomo Once Again Calls for Public Financing

In his 2013 State of the State Address on Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reemphasized his support for comprehensive reform of the state’s campaign finance laws including effective disclosure, lower contribution limits, and public financing. The Governor asserted that public financing would strengthen small donors and embolden them to participate in the electoral process. “It works well in New York City, it will work well in New York State,” Cuomostated. Cuomo proposed requiring all political and lobbying contributions over $500 to be disclosed within 48 hours. The Governor also announced plans to lower contribution limits across the board. Currently, New York has the highest limits for political contributions among states that bother to limit them at all. Our representatives in Albany are also far too dependent on a few large donors, but the Governor’s plan would give regular New Yorkers are stronger voice than they have now.

Ed Koch and Peter Zimroth Support Reform in New York Daily News

In a recent op-ed in the New York Daily News, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch and former New York City Corporation Counsel Peter Zimroth ask Albany to empower small donors. The current campaign finance system in New York, they argue, breeds cynicism and distances citizens from their government. Sky-high contribution limits — $41,000 for statewide races in the general election — mean that candidates spend more time courting big donors, who in turn exercise disproportionate influence over policy-making. “The end result is that the vast majority of citizens who can’t afford to make big donations feel shut out, and in many cases actually are.” Both Koch and Zimroth view New York City’s small donor matching funds system as a good model for financing state elections. Several good government organizations have supported this reform initiative for decades. However, for the first time, the New York business community is joining in. Prominent New Yorkers in business, finance, real estate and philanthropy, are coming together under the banner of NY LEAD. “They are fed up with elected officials not doing the people’s business and sick of reading about corrupt state officials being indicted. And as the ones on the receiving end of so many fund-raising pleas, they know that elected officials are spending too much time courting big donors and not enough time doing the people’s business.”

State Comptroller Files Suit Against Qualcomm for Political Records

Last year, we informed Reform NY readers about Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s effort to crackdown on non-profit 501(c) groupsengaging in secretive political spending. Last week, we learned that New York State Comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, is seeking disclosure of political contributions from corporations in the state pension fund. DiNapoli is obligated to protect the value of the pension fund’s investments, which include $378 million shares in tech giant Qualcomm. The pension fund requested information about Qualcomm’s political spending through letters and shareholder resolutions. After failing to receive a response, DiNapoli filed suit against the firm in Delaware, seeking to examine corporate accounts for contributions to non-profits that do not report their donors. “Without disclosure, there is no way to know whether corporate funds are being used in ways that go against shareholder interests,” DiNapoli said in astatement releasedlast Thursday. “How is the spending raising the bottom line of the company?” he added on YNN on Monday.