Friday January 11, 2013

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo is making a priority of campaign finance reform just as he and much of Albany have bulked up with campaign fundraisers that have brought in millions of dollars in donations.

Cuomo's proposals would reduce the maximum contributions, require public disclosure of contributions within 48 hours, and provide voluntary public financing of campaigns.

The disclosure requirement for donations over $500 is potentially a landmark measure that could allow the public to more quickly detect donor influence on legislation. The current requirement for disclosure is within six months.

The governor also would bolster the minuscule enforcement tools of the state Board of Elections to investigate campaign law abuses. In addition, he proposes early voting days before Election Day to help New York emerge, as he said in his State of the State address, from 47th place among the states in voter turnout.

Susan Lerner of the Common Cause-NY good-government group praised the proposals.

"In a speech where he's set a thorough new agenda of ideas, the fact that he returned to public financing is in itself significant," Lerner said.

In Cuomo's failed attempt last year to achieve public financing of campaigns and other measures, the Republican Senate opposed using scarce tax dollars for political campaigns.

Cuomo's plan comes weeks after his annual birthday fundraiser.


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The events raise millions of dollars and, in the past, has featured singer Jon Bon Jovi and taken place at the museum on the aircraft carrier Intrepid docked at Manhattan. He now has an almost unassailable $20 million campaign fund two years before a re-election bid.

The governor's been spared spending from the campaign in part by multi-million TV ad campaigns promoting Cuomo's proposals and accomplishments by the lobbying group the Committee to Save New York. Good-government groups critical of the lobbying group created by business interests have described it as a "super political action committee" that doesn't identify its early donors while amassing $19 million.

The New York Public Interest Research Group reports most of the $85 million in campaign contributions last year for legislative candidates came from individual donors and large businesses. NYPIRG's Bill Mahoney said the Senate's Republican majority chamber raised $42 million last election year, compared to $19 million for the Democratic minority. The Assembly's Democratic majority campaign committees collected $29 million, compared to $11 million by Republicans in the minority.

Most of Cuomo's campaign measures have been proposed for years and are supported by the Assembly's Democratic majority.

"The Senate has supported reforms in the past to increase transparency and accountability so the public knows who is contributing to candidates and how much they are contributing," said Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos. "However, I do not support using taxpayer dollars to fund political campaigns."

Skelos said the cost of public financing of campaigns would be $200 million, a point disputed by advocates who see minimal or no cost and a small price for more competitive contests.

"Reform isn't reform without publicly financed fair elections," said Karen Sharff of Citizens Action of New York. "The only way to reduce the corrupting influence of big money in politics is through public financed fair elections."