Cuomo's Anti-Corruption Commission To Report This Week

Dec 2, 2013

Credit Karen DeWitt

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission is meeting Monday for the final time and is expected to issue a report this week (as early as Tuesday).

Reform advocates who are anxiously awaiting the recommendations of Governor Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission say they must include public financing of political campaigns.

Karen Scharff, with Citizen Action, says a matching donor program modeled on New York City’s largely successful system is the only way to end what she calls the “campaign money chase”.  

The Co-chairs of the commission have already said they’ve become convinced of the need for public campaign financing. Syracuse area DA William Fitzpatrick told public radio station WRVO that it would save money in the long run if it eliminated big money donors from New York’s political scene.

“The savings , ultimately would be astronomical,” Fitzpatrick said. “When you eliminate that pay to play mentality.”  

Opponents of public campaign financing include Republicans in the State Senate, as well as some business groups. Brian Sampson is with Unshackle Upstate.

“We don’t think it’s the right thing to do with taxpayer money,” Sampson said.

Sampson says there are already enough laws on the books regulating campaign donations. But he says, as evidenced in recent Moreland Commission hearings, the state Board of Elections is not enforcing them. And he says his group believes a public campaign finance system is unconstitutional, and would likely challenge it in the courts.

A report in the New York Daily News  said the commission may be considering a voter referendum on public campaign financing, or might only recommend a public system as part of a dissenting opinion. Scharff, with Citizen Action, says either option is unacceptable.

“Going to a referendum is totally a cop out,” said Scharff. “It’s just a delaying tactic.”

Governor Cuomo has been talking behind the scenes with legislative leaders about a possible reform package that could be voted on in the New Year.  In a sign that the negotiations may be progressing, Senate Republicans just before Thanksgiving dropped a legal challenge to some subpoenas that the Moreland commission has issued, seeking information about their political campaign committee.