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What campaign finance reform could look like in New York State
ALBANY – Governor Andrew Cuomo is eyeing a two pronged attack to address campaign finance issues in New York State. One goal is to use public money in state wide elections; the other is to push a disclosure law that “works”.
During two of his three terms, Governor Cuomo has talked about the state “needing” campaign finance reform. One plan is to install a comprehensive and aggressive plan for disclosure reports. According to his New York is Rising 2013 budget address, Cuomo is looking to change the period of time lobbying contributions are made public. Currently it takes between six months and one year for contributions of $500 to be reported, the goal is to have that information available within 48 hours, the document said.
The head of the New York Public Interest Research Group, NYPIRG, says his group and other watch dogs around the state have been pushing for similar agendas for years.
“The current system is completely ridden with loopholes,” said Bill Mahoney of NYPIRG.
Some of the loopholes include how much large corporations can donate. The maximum amount is $5,000, however if a corporation has subsidiary groups under them, in the form of an LLC, they can donate the maximum amount for each of those groups, Mahoney said.
“There is one guy in New York City who owns a bunch of real estate properties who can give over a million dollars a year because he is allowed to give to the candidate from each of these (LLCs) he wants to,” Mahoney said.
Another aspect of the Governor’s plan is to use taxpayer dollars to match private funds given to candidates. The New York is Rising budget address mentions a similar program in New York City, one the governor sees as working. The plan would be to match small, capped amounts, of private campaign donations with state money.
Although they have an eye on the state’s spending, NYPIRG believes this expenditure would benefit taxpayers.
“Not only could more people run (for office) then when we did have elected officers they could spend more time on what they are supposed to be doing which is legislating and not raising money to run,” said Mahoney.
There is no concrete figure for how much state money would be used in campaigns. During a town hall type conference call, with the public earlier this month, Cuomo talked about campaign finance reform and mentioned the figure of $30 million.