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.