This year, Cuomo is again saying all the right things about campaign finance reform, even as he's sitting on a massive campaign war chest of more than $4 million. And he's getting support in his reform push from some of the very donors who helped fill his campaign coffers. Our Nick Reisman has the details.
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NEW YORK STATE – “Let's pass campaign finance reform and let's do it this year,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
A group calling itself NY LEAD, made up of wealthy business leaders and former politicians, is embracing Governor Cuomo's call in his second State of the State to overhaul campaign finance laws. They're low on specifics, but like Cuomo say they want lower contribution limits, close loopholes and institute a voluntary public matching system similar to New York City.
“I would love to have fewer fundraisers, I would love to see our elected officials talking to all the voters, not just the ones who can write big checks,” said Sean Eldridge, Hudson River Ventures President.
But Cuomo himself benefits from the current system and its $60,000 contribution limits. In the last six months alone, Cuomo has raised more than $6 million, with many of it coming from the rich business leaders who are members of the group.
“Everyone is currently working within the rules that have now and those are bad rules. The rules aren't working, they have bad outcomes and we need to change them. We're here to talk about to make those rules better and not about any specific elected official,” Eldridge said.
Now the group insisted it is not coordinating with the governor. But it is a strikingly similar effort to other consortiums formed in the last year that feature prominent people. The Committee to Save New York was formed to back Cuomo's conservative fiscal agenda. New Yorkers United For Marriage backed the successful same-sex marriage effort. NY LEAD has also registered with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics as an official lobbying organization.
“This is an idea campaign that this group has come together to stand behind. Other people are working on the politics of it in the sense that you're talking about. I don't believe NY LEAD is going to become a fundraising or a fund spending group,” said Fritz Schwarz, Brennan Center For Justice Chief Counsel.
Critics of public financing also contend that it actually helps super rich candidates who can self- fund campaigns, but NY LEAD says that isn't the case.
“I don't think it necessarily does. Could someone do that? Yes, we've seen Mayor Bloomberg do that in New York. But the system in New York City that was in place at the time that he ran still amplified the voices of the people on the other side who much less well funded who would have had a lot of money than they would have otherwise,” former congressman Scott Murphy said.