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Molinaro plan: Ban campaign cash from state vendors

The Republican candidate for governor said he would like to outlaw contributions from people and companies that do business with the state.

Republican Marc Molinaro announces his intention to run

Republican Marc Molinaro announces his intention to run against Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the Governor of New York State on Monday, April 2, 2018, during a news conference in Albany, N.Y. Molinaro vowed Monday to change what he called Albany's climate of corruption and behind-closed-doors deals as he formally kicked off his campaign for New York governor. (Skip Dickstein/The Albany Times Union via AP) Photo Credit: AP / Skip Dickstein

ALBANY — Republican candidate for governor Marc Molinaro on Wednesday said that if elected, he would move to ban campaign contributions from businesses and individuals that do business with the state or seek to do business with the state.

“If we are to begin restoring that trust — and we must — political donations from state vendors and contract holders must be permanently outlawed,” Molinaro said in a Buffalo news conference, taking a not-so-veiled swipe at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

A Molinaro spokeswoman, Katherine Delgado, said the ban would apply to all statewide and legislative candidates.

Molinaro would also end the so-called “LLC loophole,” in which corporations create limited liability companies to skirt the $5,000 corporate limit for campaign contributions.

State law already prohibits conflicts of interest by those doing work with the state, although companies and individuals doing business with the state may still contribute to campaigns. Cuomo has also proposed several times to end the LLC loophole.

“No contribution of any size influences any government action — period,” said Cuomo campaign spokeswoman Abbey Fashouer. She said Molinaro is “desperately trying to deflect from the sad state of his campaign.”

What Molinaro is proposing is not that unusual, said Richard H. Pildes, a professor of constitutional law at the New York University School of Law. “Bans on campaign contributions from those directly doing business with the state now exist in many states,” he said.

This summer, the U.S. attorney’s office will prosecute a case involving one of Cuomo’s biggest economic development projects, the Buffalo Billion, and some major developers who have also been big contributors to Cuomo’s campaigns. The developers, together with a former SUNY official and others, are accused in a bid-rigging and bribery scheme; Cuomo hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing.

Molinaro would have to craft his proposal in a way that could withstand challenges, “but that could easily be done,” said Susan Lerner of Common Cause-NY. “If you have a governor who wants it to get done, it will get done.”

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