Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday defended his significant political fundraising haul as he pushes for reforms to the campaign-finance system, arguing that he has to live in the “real world” and protect against a potentially wealthy opponent who could “dwarf” his campaign’s spending.
In a radio interview, Cuomo said his campaign’s large warchest—which currently has about $33 million—is not meant to scare off potential Republican challengers. Cuomo and all state lawmakers are on the ballot this year.
“You have to live in the real world, and the real world is somebody can run for office who has a ton of money and money in and of itself can almost win a campaign,” Cuomo said on public radio’s “The Capitol Pressroom”. “If you don’t have personal wealth—which I don’t to the magnitude that this business would require—then somebody could come in with personal wealth and just win the office because they can outspend you. You see that all the time.”
Cuomo has publicly supported the creation of a publicly funded campaign-finance system, in which small political donations by private individuals would be matched with state money at a 6-to-1 rate.
But his re-election campaign has relied largely on big-money donors. About 81 percent of donations in Cuomo’s coffers came from donors who gave $10,000 or more, according to the New York Public Interest Research Group. Just .85 percent came from donors who gave $1,000 or less.
“I think a lot of this conversation is baloney, frankly,” Cuomo said. “What the people want to know, what they say to me is, ‘Look, we want to know that you’re working for us, you’re not working for anyone else.’ And that is a question of character more than anything else, because some politicians out there can be bought for $10 and some politicians can’t be bought for $10 billion.”
He continued: “It’s a question of the person, it’s a question of character, it’s a question of values. It’s not how much does it cost to buy a politician. It’s a politician who can’t be bought.”