A group of New York state Senators held a public hearing Wednesday on a proposed campaign finance reform bill. They say with the most recent lawmaker names that have emerged in connection with a federal corruption investigation, the need for such reform is all the more urgent.
The hearing in Rockland County was the second held by the Independent Democratic Conference, which now consists of four senators, after Malcolm Smith was recently charged in a bribery scheme. The IDC shares power with Republicans in the Senate. As the hearing in Rockland got underway, Governor Andrew Cuomo was in Albany, urging lawmakers to adopt anti-corruption measures by the end of the session June 20, especially as the lawmaker corruption list potentially grows longer. The mainstream Democratic conference saw several of its members linked to an ongoing wiretap investigation Wednesday. Here’s IDC leader Jeff Klein.
Senator David Carlucci, an IDC member whose district includes most of Rockland County, also agrees with the governor’s push.
The IDC has proposed the Integrity in Elections Act of 2013, which would introduce public campaign financing. Candidates would be eligible to receive public matching funds. The bill also imposes a $2,600 contribution limit for all state campaigns and bans all corporate contributions. Meanwhile, the state Assembly Tuesday passed its own version, the 2013 Fair Elections Act, which establishes optional public financing for election campaigns. Republicans generally oppose any public financing option. Jesse Laymon is downstate campaigns manager for Citizen Action New York. He says soliciting input about the IDC bill is productive,
One area of debate in overhauling election laws concerns the so-called Wilson-Pakula provision, which, as Senator Klein explains, the IDC wants to repeal.
And takes the power away, he says, from the leaders of the two major parties. Citizen Action’s Laymon commends much of the IDC bill, though takes issue with the Wilson Pakula repeal, saying it could weaken third parties.
One of three area residents who spoke was Robert Tompkins, who says that what works on the state and county level may not be applicable on a more local level.
That was Senator Diane Savino. She and her IDC colleagues say the key to reform is a major overhaul.
Others who testified included officials from the Rockland County League of Women Voters, Common Cause, the Brennan Center for Justice, and Americans for Campaign Reform. The IDC is holding another public hearing next week in Buffalo. Senate Republicans, a key faction in the first-of-its-kind power-sharing agreement in the upper chamber, have been holding their own conferences on the issue, but remain skeptical.