Groups pushing for public financing of campaigns received a boost Monday when a corruption-busting panel supported the proposal and blasted New York’s pay-to-play culture.
But so far the political dynamics in Albany haven’t changed: There are not enough votes in the state Senate to pass public financing.
Liberal and union-backed groups that support public financing said they will be looking for that elusive vote.
“That’s our challenge in terms of getting it passed in 2014,” said Karen Scharff, executive director of Citizen Action of New York. “We do need more Senate votes, but we think the climate has changed.”
The climate change, advocates said, is the report from the Moreland Commission, an investigative body formed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to root out corruption in Albany.
It recommended public financing for state offices as a way to limit the influence of big-money donors in New York’s porous campaign-finance system.
The majority of the 25-member panel said the state should implement a system similar to one in New York City, which provides a 6-to-1 public funds match on small contributions up to $175. But the commission had seven members who opposed public financing.
Good-government groups on Wednesday started a “Penny-A-Day Keeps Corruption Away” campaign. The cost of public financing would equate to $3 a year per New York, the groups said.
Senate Republicans have opposed public financing, particularly upstate where they have fought for additional state aid for schools, infrastructure and economic-development projects.
They have estimated the cost at $200 million in a state election year. Republicans control the 63-seat Senate with the four-member Independent Democratic Conference.
“Senate Republicans continue to oppose the creation of a statewide campaign finance system funded by taxpayers, which would needlessly divert upwards of $200 million away from our schools, infrastructure and initiatives to provide tax relief for hardworking families,” said GOP spokesman Scott Reif.
The IDC backs public financing, as does the Democratic-led Assembly. New York has among the highest campaign-finance limits in the country and weak enforcement at the state Board of Elections, the Moreland Commission found.
But two Democrats in the Senate oppose public financing – Sens. Simcha Felder, D-Brooklyn, and Ruben Diaz, D-Bronx – leaving the measure one vote short of the 32 needed for passage.
“Why should public money be used to finance political campaigns when our homeless shelters are overflowing and affordable housing is so scarce?” Diaz wrote in an email Wednesday. “How can any politician in good conscience accept public money for his or her campaign when so many of their constituents continue to struggle to support their families?”