Opinion Editorial on Small Donor Empowerment
Mr. Cuomo's words, deeds
The governor takes advantage of some lax campaign finance laws, loopholes and all.
That make his push to change those laws all the harder.
A million dollars a month is at once an impressive and excessive amount of money for almost any politician to raise, especially one still quite popular more than a year before what would seem to be a rather easy path to re-election.
Political contributions of $750,000 are simply excessive — not impressive at all — especially when they require that politician to suspend his admirable quest for changes to New York's campaign finance laws and instead take advantage of their loopholes.
So goes the re-election campaign of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, reformer by day and prolific fundraiser by night. There's hardly an incumbent officeholder anywhere in the country who doesn't need to weigh the corrupting influence of money in politics against the very real need to raise cash to pay the obscenely expensive price of running for office. Still, Mr. Cuomo's recent fundraising activities leave him especially open to charges of blatant opportunism and even hypocrisy.
And that, New York, is to our great political shame.
Mr. Cuomo's call for public campaign financing, along with substantially lower contribution limits and much more aggressive enforcement of campaign finance laws, already faces the well-funded wrath of a political establishment that cares little that elections are bought as much as they are won. But now the governor is alienating the people who ought to be his most steadfast allies in what counts as the ultimate good-government cause.
And who can blame them for their disappointment?
The revelation that George Soros made a $750,000 donation to the Democratic State Committee to aid Mr. Cuomo, making a mockery of what's supposed to be a $60,000 limit on gifts to any statewide candidate, is disconcerting to anyone who's both sincere about transforming New York's political culture. Same for hedge fund billionaire James Simonsand his $1 million contribution.
Don't bother talking about the legality of what's going on here — namely, billionaires helping the Democrats use their so-called housekeeping account to pay for a $5.3 million advertising blitz promoting Mr. Cuomo. It's perfectly legal.
Yet the person who should be leading the fight to ban such high-rolling political spending is now badly compromised. All told, Mr. Cuomo has raised $5.9 million of the very "soft money" donations that he says he wants outlawed.
"The fact that the governor doesn't lead by example hurts the ability to get something passed. And this is the most brazen thing he's done that I have seen," says Bill Samuels of the New Roosevelt think tank, a former Democratic fundraiser turned reform crusader.
Music to the ears, no doubt, of Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos. He must be salivating at the idea of using Mr. Samuels' words against the governor when the battle for tougher campaign finance laws is fought anew.
It's tiring to hear the governor say that "you can only live within the system that exists" while he rakes in campaign cash that comes overwhelmingly in donations of $10,000 or more and takes advantage of a loophole that treats limited liability corporations as individuals when they make campaign contributions, even if they're controlled by one individual.
"I've worked very hard to change it; I'll continue to work very hard to change it," the governor says of a system that allows such fundraising.
We hope he does. But now it's clear that means campaigning against himself.