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Going on the offensive, state Republicans say they will hold a hearing about New York City’s public financing because it “appears rife with abuse.”
The GOP initiative comes days after Democrats and the Working Families Party have made a concerted effort to build momentum for public financing and pressure Republicans. Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said recent political scandals don’t reinforce the case for public financing but instead work against it.
“We are deeply skeptical that providing politicians with taxpayer dollars to finance their campaigns is a solution to the recent scandals,” Skelos said in announcing the hearing. “As we’ve seen in New York City, it can be a recipe for more wrongdoing and more corruption.”
Earlier this month, federal prosecutors charged state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) and five others in an alleged bribery scheme to get the Democrat a spot on the Republican primary ballot for New York City mayor. Smith and the others will be formally arraigned Tuesday in White Plains.
In his hearing announcement, Skelos noted that Smith “was reportedly interested in qualify for matching funds so he could keep the taxpayer dollars flowing to support himself and his allies.” The city’s campaign-finance model provides candidates with $6 in public funds for every $1 raised through private donations.
Good-government groups said the Smith case shows the need for public financing. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and some Senate Democrats have unveiled bills in the wake of the scandal to enact public financing for state offices. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said he's for public financing, but has focused his efforts on changing party bosses' control of ballots.