Ethics Reformers Appluad Cuomo’s State of State Address

Ethics reformers call on Cuomo to use ‘maximum leverage’

Capital New York

Jessica Alaimo

January 8, 2014

ALBANY—Leaders of good government groups said Wednesday they were pleased that Gov. Andrew Cuomo again promoted campaign finance and ethics reforms, but wondered if his words will translate into action this time around.

“The next move the governor has to make is whether he puts these proposals into his budget, where he has maximum leverage,” said Blair Horner, legislative director for the New York Public Interest Research Group. “This is a song I’ve heard the last three years, and it’s a song I like to hear. The question is making it happen—which is very hard.”

In his speech, Cuomo outlined a number of campaign reforms, although most weren’t new ideas. He reiterated his support for public financing, called for more limits on campaign contributions, and pushed stricter penalties for corruption.

Citing the recent report from the Moreland Commission, the governor also called for an independent agency to enforce election laws.

“When government has the public’s trust, the government has more capacity to do good work,” Cuomo said.

Last year, an ethics packages passed the Assembly overwhelmingly and failed in the Senate by one vote.

It’s time to round up those last few votes, said Karen Scharff, executive director of Citizen Action of New York. “There are no excuses left, it’s time to get it done,” she said.

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle said the last step is finding consensus between the chambers. “I think the governor has the will to get it done, we’ll see progress on this this year,” Morelle said.

To boost the cause, supporters have mounted a campaign to put public pressure on lawmakers.

“An election year is the best year to make a statement to the public that you get the message and you want to change the system,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York. “How perceptive some of the long-term legislators are in that regard? Difficult to tell.”

Lawrence Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice said New York’s debate has followed a similar pattern as that in other states, where opponents of reform eventually gave in to public pressure.

“This kind of reform is never easy, it’s the Legislature imposing new restrictions on itself, but we’re as close as we’ve ever been in New York,” Norden said.

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