A coalition of advocacy groups gathered Tuesday at the Capitol to push for campaign-finance reform to be included in this year’s budget.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo included campaign-finance reform proposals in his 2014-15 executive budget for the first time in state history, Gannett’s Ashley Hupfl reports. The proposals could be the push needed to enact effective campaign-finance reform, the groups said.
“We have never been in a stronger position to enact this then we are today. With the governor having taken the step of putting it into the budget, it makes it much more real in the negotiations then it ever has been. Because they have to talk about it and they have to act to take it out of the budget and that’s going to be a very difficult thing to do if the Governor stays strong and insists upon its inclusion,” said Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group.
The groups are backing campaign-contribution limits, more effective regulation and enforcement of campaign finance laws, matching funds for small donations and disclosure and transparency of campaign contributions, all of which were also proposed in the executive budget.
Specifically, the executive budget includes a public system model where contributions up to $175 are match $6 to $1 to empower small donors, modeled after New York City’s model. In November, a report released by NYPIRG recommended the system.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, has long sponsored a similar bill while Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos has spoken out against the public campaign-finance system in the past, arguing that it is an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars. The groups said they expected opposition from Senate Republicans, but were hoping to win support among Senate Democrats through the budget process.
“Procedurally, it’s different because they have to pass the budget, and the budget has to have the section in it that, right now, includes in the governor’s proposal, campaign=finance reform. So, either it stays in and they have to pass it with it in, or everyone has to agree, all four leaders, have to agree to take it out,” said Karen Scharff executive director of Citizen Action of New York, speaking about Cuomo, Skelos, Silver, and Senate Co-leader Jeff Klein.
“We think with three of the four leaders wanting it in, this is a chance where they don’t have to agree to take it out, but everyone does have to pass a budget so it creates a different dynamic than any other time,” Scharff said.
Senate Republicans continued to reiterate their opposition to public financing.
“We continue to oppose wasting $200 million or more in taxpayer money on the campaigns of politicians, including the negative television commercials and robocalls people hate,” said spokesman Scott Reif. “Right now, we’re focused on passing a responsible budget that cuts taxes and and invests the state’s resources in education and infrastructure so we can create new jobs and help hardworking families have a future here in New York.”