Examples abound for the wisdom of reining in the cash
Democrat and Chronicle
August 1, 2013
The longer state lawmakers wait to act on meaningful campaign finance reform, the more examples advocates can point to for why it is so badly needed. Whether it’s to prevent the misspending of donations, provide much-needed transparency to Albany politics, or level the playing field for underfunded would-be challengers, tightening the rules surrounding the collection and spending of campaign contributions in New York is long overdue.
A spate of blockbuster scandals in Albany this spring should have provided the necessary impetus. It did not. Gov. Andrew Cuomo – who made a lot of noise about campaign finance reform on the campaign trail but has been slow to follow through since being elected – proposed a bill late in the session. It languished in the state Senate.
Since then, the New York Public Interest Research Group has reported that at least four current and two former lawmakers used campaign donations to pay for their legal fees. The state’s loose campaign finance laws leave the door open to such spending.
In fact, NYPIRG uncovered more than 100,000 violations of campaign finance laws by candidates and political committees since 2011. Although many were minor (incomplete filing and the like), they point to the casual nature of oversight and enforcement in New York. So, too, does the fact that all but a handful went unpunished.
Then there are the millions of dollars pouring into elected officials’ coffers from lobbyists and special interests. Backers of hydrofracking alone have funneled in some $14 million since 2007, often to western New York and Southern Tier lawmakers. Cuomo’s recently created Moreland Commission has been urged to investigate. It should.
Cuomo, with his nearly $28 million campaign war chest, hasn’t exactly been a poster boy for reform. He says he’s merely operating within the current system. He should instead be agitating more forcefully to change that system.