News Coverage on Small Donor Empowerment
NY gov. catches heat over his campaign fundraisingMichael Gormley
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has already amassed a huge campaign fund, said Tuesday he won't limit himself in collecting more money despite his long-held support of campaign finance reforms
"I live within the laws of the current campaign finance system," Cuomo said on public radio's "Capitol Pressroom." ''I would very much like to change them."
Cuomo already has $27.8 million in his campaign account for next year's re-election race with no challenger in sight. That's a bigger tally so far than most candidates for governor spent on their entire campaign.
The New York Public Interest Research Group found 80 percent of Cuomo's donors contributed more than $10,000 each and 200 donors contributed more than $40,000 each.
In addition, the state Democratic Committee under Cuomo's control benefits from nearly unrestricted "housekeeping" donations intended to pay for operating the committee, which can be used for nearly unrestricted purposes.
Common Cause of New York on Tuesday reported the state Democratic Committee "soft money," like the housekeeping account, reached a record high so far in 2013 to $4.3 million.
Cuomo has already tapped that committee account to pay for campaign-like ads to support his policies and accomplishments in office.
"Ordinary New Yorkers can't help but question the kind of access and influence donors who can contribute limitless amounts to party accounts have and contrast it, unfortunately, with their own," said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause of New York.
All of it is legal under some of the highest donation limits in the nation. But good-government critics say much of it, like the use of housekeeping accounts, are loopholes that Cuomo is exploiting.
But Cuomo asked Tuesday: "Where would the loophole be?" He said the squishy housekeeping account rules are law, not a loophole.
In his 2010 campaign, Cuomo said: "Currently, New York law amplifies the voices of wealthy individuals and special interests and entrenches incumbents at the public's expense. This must change."
On Tuesday, Cuomo said he chooses to abide by the campaign finance system he vowed to change, and which some proponents said he didn't try hard enough to get the Legislature to reform.
"Whoever is going to run against me has to live within the same laws," Cuomo said. "You can't have one set of laws for one person and a different set of laws for another person."
But good-government advocate Bill Samuels said Cuomo should be leading by example.
"It's a real disappointment," said Bill Samuels, founder of the New Roosevelts good-government organization. "I think what he's really saying is 'I, Andrew Cuomo manages the old culture very well, and I'm getting results.'
"I think he's just underestimating the smartness of the voter," Samuels said. "I think he's underestimating people on both sides — the tea party members and Occupy Albany. The people who really want change would like to believe in their government and just don't think there is anyone willing to lead."