Senate Independent Democratic Conference Holds Hearings on Reform


Zack Fink

May 1, 2013

Wednesday afternoon, the Independent Democratic Caucus held a hearing on campaign finance reform in New York City. As YNN Zack Fink explains, the IDC is calling for public financing of campaigns using a system similar to the one that the city already has in place.

ALBANY, N.Y. — Albany watchers say it’s a rarity at the state Capitol when the various parties and factions agree on anything, but there does appear to be broad consensus that something needs to be done this year to crack down on corruption.

Democrats want to change how money flows to candidates by implementing a system of campaign finance reform. The Independent Democratic Conference in the Senate, which controls the Senate agenda in a coalition government with Republicans, has what many say is the strongest proposal. On Wednesday, they held their first of four public hearings on the subject.

“I think it’s very much on the table because the public really wants it. If you look at the polling that was done when you ask New Yorkers if they want comprehensive package of campaign finance reform built around public financing, more than 60 percent of New Yorkers say yeah, that’s what we want,” said Susan Lerner of Common Cause NY.

But Republicans are opposed to using any public money for campaigns. During a cabinet meeting, Governor Andrew Cuomo talked more about his plan to legalize gambling and bring three casinos to upstate New York. We asked if he would consider using casino revenue as a source of public funding for campaigns.

Cuomo said, “Their position is that money would normally go to the general fund, therefore that money is public money. And the opposition to public finance is we are not using public money to run campaigns.”

But advocates for reform say there are ways of funding the system without the direct use of public money.

Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein said, “If we are going to do this, we should do it right. Yeah, we can figure out an alternative way to fund the system. In our legislation, we are looking at putting a user fee or a surtax on certain types of lawsuits brought on behalf of the state.”
Supporters of campaign finance reform say New York State should model its system on New York City’s, which they say has been a huge success.

Republicans say it’s just the opposite. They say New York City’s campaign finance system, which includes a six to one match, actually fuels corruption. They are having their own set of public hearings, the first one is next week in Albany.

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