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Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Albany's unfinished business, Part I

The State Assembly and Senate end their legislative sessions on June 19, and while there have been significant accomplishments, there are also important matters that were either left unaddressed or, perhaps worse, only seem to have been dealt with.

Two examples of the latter — problems that Gov. Andrew Cuomo or the Legislature want us to believe are resolved, but aren’t — are campaign finance reform and public corruption.

The way running for office now works, candidates fund their campaigns through a combination of small contributions from supporters, ask for large donations from the wealthy or accept even larger donations from those who seek a quid pro quo relationship — i.e., they look to buy influence in the state Capitol.

Reformers have long proposed a system whereby public money would be used to match what candidates raise directly from small donors. This would enable candidates who depend mostly on small contributions to mount somewhat more competitive, credible campaigns, and reduce, a bit, the influence big money has on the laws that get proposed.

But those who get to decide on any changes in how politicians fund campaigns are, of course, politicians. Legislators who depend on influence-peddling campaign contributions from unions, corporations or major law firms would be going against their own self-interests if they changed the system.

So instead, all Cuomo could accomplish was a trial-size effort enacted through the budget process: only one race, the state comptroller’s election, will receive public financing. This pilot program is touted as a test, which, if successful — whatever that means — can be expanded.

The League of Women Voters of New York State said it best: “Unless real reform is seriously addressed in the coming weeks, this deeply flawed and inadequate faux ‘reform’ leaves New Yorkers with a government still susceptible to the corrupting influence of big-moneyed special interests.”

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