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Democrats, activists press for limits on LLC contributions

Democratic state lawmakers and good government activiststes Friday urged passage of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s bills to close a campaign finance loophole that allows companies to skirt donation limits.

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) and Assemb. Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Babylon) appeared at a news conference outside the State Supreme Courthouse in Mineola with leaders of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, Common Cause New York and the Working Families Party.

They argued that Cuomo’s proposals to close the “LLC Loophole” for limited liability companies were urgently needed to begin the process of comprehensive state campaign finance reform.

The legislature adjourns for the summer at the end of next week, and the State Senate’s GOP majority has not yet embraced Cuomo’s bills.

“For too long, the playing field has been titled in favor of wealthy campaign donors and big money interests in Albany, while the voices of voters have been drowned out, or shut out, entirely,” said Emily Abbott, the Working Families Party’s Long Island political director. “It’s time for that to change.”

Currently, state law allows companies to exceed the $5,000 corporate limit by creating an unlimited amount of limited liability companies to funnel donations. Some large firms have used dozens of different LLCs to contribute millions of dollars in total donations in recent years.

Cuomo, whose own campaign has received millions of dollars in contributions from LLCs, proposed treating the entities as “traditional corporations” and capping their contributions at $5,000 annually. The Democrat-led Assembly supports the proposal.

“If the legislation fails to pass before the end of session, it is a sign that the Senate Majority is out of touch with New York voters,” said Long Island Progressive Coalition director Lisa Tyson.

Senate Republicans argue that the focus on LLCs ignores the fact that large labor unions and other political action committees are still able to skirt campaign finance limits for individual candidates by giving their money to political party committees. The party committees can transfer unlimited amounts of money funds to specific candidates.

“A proposal to close the LLC loophole is a red herring that fails to fundamentally address the root cause of the problems that exist within our campaign finance system, mostly notably a lack of enforcement, a lack of transparency, and a lack of full and honest disclosure,” Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said this week when Cuomo introduced his bills.

Kaminsky, who won a special election last month in which unions made large contributions to committees that transferred funds to his campaign, said lawmakers cannot afford to do nothing about the LLC issue.

“We must restore integrity to our elections and renew voters’ confidence in the power of their vote and in the trust given to their elected officials to represent their interests, not the interest of the wealthy and powerful,” Kaminsky said.

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