Money in Politics in NY: Jan. 10 Edition


Gov. Cuomo Proposes Public Financing of Elections in State of the State Address

In his annual State of the State address on Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined his vision for New York, including a bold proposal for comprehensive ethics reform. With the stated goal of restoring trust in state government, Cuomo recommended public financing, a new anti-bribery statute, independent enforcement at the Board of Elections and disclosure of outside clients doing business with the state. In the 2014 State of State handbook which accompanied the speech, the governor detailed these as well as other reform initiatives, emphasizing that matching small donations with public funds would give “voice to small donors” and “help enable a diverse pool of candidates with substantial grassroots support, but little access to large donors, to run competitive campaigns.” Good-government groupscommended Governor Cuomo’s reforms package and remain optimistic that it will pass. “This kind of reform is never easy, it’s the Legislature imposing new restrictions on itself, but we’re as close as we’ve ever been in New York,” Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center, said.

Albany Times-Union Editorial Tells Cuomo to Back Rhetoric With Action

On Thursday, the editorial board of the Albany Times-Union praised Governor Andrew Cuomo for his endorsement of campaign finance reform in the State of the State address, but cautioned that the rhetoric must be backed up by action. If last year’s bribery scandals were any indication, corruption has become rampant in the Albany. State elections remain uncompetitive, with the current rules favoring incumbents with big campaign chests over new challengers. Combined with inadequate enforcement of even the paltry campaign finance laws already on the books, it is not surprising that so many politicians thought they were above the law last year. New York needs comprehensive reform: lower contribution limits, an independent enforcement agency, no more loopholes, and most importantly a system of matching small contributions with public funds. “Mr. Cuomo has shown that he can push contentious measures through the Legislature — like gun control and marriage equality,” the editorial noted. It remains to be seen whether the Governor and the Legislature have to will to pass reforms to address the epidemic of corruption.

Scharff in Buffalo News: Reduce Influence of Special Interests by Matching Small Donations With Public Funds

Karen Scharff, executive director of Citizen Action, penned an op-ed in the Buffalo News over the Holidays, encouraging New Yorkers to combat the pay-to-play culture prevalent in Albany. As a reformer with 30 years of experience in Albany, Scharff criticized the outsized influence that moneyed interests have over the legislative process on nearly every single issue. In return for large donations, special interests frequently expect favorable legislation such as tax credits and deductions. However, this year, with the start of the new legislative session, New Yorkers have the opportunity to mend this broken system. The Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption has outlined proposals to help reshape state corruption and campaign finance laws. If reform legislation can be passed that allows small donations to be matched with public funds, then candidates would become less dependent on big donors and more so on their constituents. “Whatever it is you think state government should or shouldn’t be doing, with public financing you have a much better chance of having your voice and your neighbors’ voices heard and not drowned out by big money,” Scharff said.