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Records: Constitutional convention critics’ fundraising outpaces proponents

Opponents of a referendum to create a state constitutional convention received hundreds of thousands of dollars in the days before the vote.

Fundraising by opponents of a state constitutional convention

Fundraising by opponents of a state constitutional convention swamped that of proponents in the final days before the Nov. 7 referendum on the issue. Photo Credit: YouTube / Nassau County PBA

ALBANY — Fundraising by opponents of a constitutional convention to overhaul how Albany operates swamped that of convention backers in the final days before the referendum on the question, according to state records released this week.

State Board of Elections records show that a week before the Nov. 7 vote, the leading group opposed to a convention, New Yorkers Against Corruption, received:

  • $444,000 from the New York State United Teachers union.
  • $200,000 from the Communications Workers of America union.
  • $100,000 from the American Federation of County, State and Municipal Employees.
  • $50,000 from the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association.
  • And $24,500 from the Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees.

In all, New Yorkers Against Corruption collected just over $1 million between Oct. 24 and Election Day, mostly from unions representing government workers and public school teachers, the records show.

During the same period, the group spent $2.2 million, primarily on a TV ad blitz calling for a “no” vote.

New Yorkers Against Corruption had argued that well-funded conservative groups and special interests would get supporters elected as convention delegates, endangering protections for abortion, public school funding and pensions of public workers.

Advocates called a convention the only way to enact measures for term limits, ethics reform, borrowing limits and other measures stalled in the legislature.

The proposition was defeated by 78 percent to 16 percent of the vote.

One convention supporter, the NY People’s Convention, raised $87,573 and spent $117,993 in the final week of the campaign, according to Board of Elections records.

Most of the contributions in the final days — $48,000 — was from a founder of the organization, William Samuels, a good-government advocate.

Another group supporting a convention, Committee for a Constitutional Convention, raised $10,245 in the final week and spent $18,167.

The financial disclosure records were due Monday, but the New Yorkers Against Corruption report isn’t yet final. The report so far shows a $71,151 deficit.

The group said not all its donations have been accounted for and the end balance will be about $50,000.

“The vast coalition our campaign organized has resulted in a lengthier disclosure process than we originally expected,” said Jim Long, the group’s treasurer. “We are currently in communication with the Board of Elections to ensure our disclosure is filed accurately and quickly.”

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