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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today addressed advocates of campaign-finance reform at a Manhattan luncheon, from JS Capital Management chief executive Jonathan Soros to leaders of the Brennan Center for Justice. Cuomo outlined proposals of interest he’s made and also some of the dilemmas presented by current law.
Afterward, he took questions from reporters where he declined to say if the public-finance portion of his 2013 legislative agenda would be dropped in order to win other points in his sought-after program. He was asked about his tweaking in his speech of outside, purportedly “independent” organizations pouring big money into elections with similar names like “Americans for America” — specifically about his own recent alliance with the “Committee to Save New York.”
“They’re supposed to be independent expenditures,” he said. “That’s my point. And I think the line...in some cases has been blurred. It is very hard to design a system for public finance that has at the same time a vehicle that could come in at any given time and spend $10 million and obliterate the candidacy. And we’ve seen that in the last elections.”
He was asked if there are any parts of his legislative program -- which also calls for real-time disclosure, better enforcement, lower limits on the amount of particular contributions -- that can be considered “low-hanging fruit,” meaning easy to enact without the rest of the package.
“None of them are especially easy because if they were easy they’d have been done by now,” Cuomo replied. "These have all been around for years and years. We’ve been trying to get public finance done for years. So by definition they’re hard -- otherwise, they wouldn’t be there.”
But why look for such change if he’s done so well on his own in fundraising?
“The least favorite part of my job is the fundraising part,” Cuomo said. “But until the rules are changed I do not have an alternative... I’m not independently wealthy, so I can’t self-finance. I am in a situation where... someone could come in who’s going to be a rich, multimillionaire, says I want to be governor, and spend a lot of his own money, that could be formidable...Money is so determinative you want to make sure you’re in a position to compete.”