Opinion Editorial on Small Donor Empowerment
The Governor’s MegabucksEditorial
If New Yorkers need another good reason to support a major cleanup of their state’s scandalously lax campaign finance laws, they need only look at the latest filing from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Mr. Cuomo has been talking about reforming the state’s campaign financing system for years, most recently in his State of the State speech this month. But that has not slowed his stunningly intense use of loopholes that allow special interests to lard his campaign with thousands of dollars and make small donors more irrelevant.
With a re-election campaign more than a year away, Mr. Cuomo has $22.5 million on hand. Over the last two years, only 1 percent of what the campaign raised came from contributors giving less than $1,000.
Small donors were swamped by big givers, according to an analysis of Cuomo campaign filings by New York Public Interest Research Group. Since 2010, 142 people or organizations have given $8.4 million in chunks of $40,000 or more to that campaign. One real estate developer, Leonard Litwin, has given the governor $500,000, according to the research group. The normal limits for contributions are already high: $60,800 per donor per statewide race. But Mr. Litwin and others can give more by creating a number of limited-liability companies that each dole out the maximum allowed. It’s legal, but that is the problem in Albany. The financing laws are loose and badly enforced, just as many Albany lawmakers prefer.
Mr. Cuomo has said that he supports a statewide version of New York City’s public financing of campaigns. “It works well in New York City,” he said recently. “It will work well in New York State.” That’s absolutely correct, but Mr. Cuomo has to push for it, just as he pushed for same-sex marriage and gun control and on-time, balanced budgets.
New York’s powerful governor cannot simply give speeches about the unfairness of his state’s campaign financing laws while he uses its loopholes to enrich his own campaign. It is time for him to make good on those promises and bring cleaner, fairer and more open campaign financing to Albany.