Money in Politics for the Week of April 30th


1. In a radio interview this week, Gov. Cuomo renewed the call for statewide campaign finance reform, decrying the corrosive effect that super PACs and high contribution limits continue to have on electoral politics in Albany. “The power of money in the Capitol is unbelievable,” Gov. Cuomo said. Cuomo has pledged to implement a public financing system similar to New York City’s small donor matching program, as well as to improve enforcement of state campaign finance laws, close campaign finance loopholes and lower contribution limits.

2. The debate over public financing has begun in the state Senate, with the introduction of new legislation by Senator Eric Adams, which would establish a public financing program, create an independent enforcement counsel in the State Board of Elections, lower contribution limits and improve disclosure of independent political spending.  At a press conference called by Senate Democrats, Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson told reporters that public campaign finance would dilute the influence of moneyed interests and enhance the power of small donors. Sen. Tom Duane added that Gov. Cuomo’s support is crucial for a bill’s passage, observing that the governor’s track record on marriage reform and pension benefits is clear evidence that “when he puts his mind to something, he can win.”

3. Reform groups including Citizen Action New York gathered in Albany on Monday to protest the outsized influence of the natural gas industry on the state legislature’s approach to hydrofracking, noting that the industry has contributed more than $1.3 million to state legislators in an effort to buy support for the controversial practice. Sierra Club representative Robert Ciesielski cited a study by Common Cause that the governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, had received over $1.6 million in political donations from the industry—a figure that, given the current state of New York’s campaign finance laws, lobbyists in Albany could well surpass.

4. On Wednesday, Fair Elections for New York held a screening in Albany of “Pricele$$,” a new documentary on the influence of money in politics that includes interviews with former Gov. Mario Cuomo and former U.S. Representative Dan Maffei (D—NY), who is currently running for the seat he lost in 2010. Filmmaker Steve Cowan posted full transcripts of his interviews with Cuomo and Maffei on the film’s website, which include Maffei’s observation he supports public campaign finance “because it means the only people we’ll have to worry about in our day are the taxpayers and constituents in our district, and that’s what we’re supposed to do.”