ALBANY — Two Democrats with supporters who have urged them to run for governor teamed up Tuesday to remind Albany of its lengthy corruption record and the need to reform state government.
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Zephyr Teachout, a liberal candidate for governor in 2014 and for Congress last fall, pushed for reforms in how campaigns are financed, how state contracts are awarded and how New Yorkers register to vote.
Miner seeks greater disclosure of big campaign donors that seek and land big state contracts, tax breaks and other benefits. Federal agents are investigating major projects in Buffalo and central New York in which donors to Cuomo’s campaign received large state contracts. Cuomo denies donors gained any advantage and is now proposing more disclosures and safeguards under his administration in the awarding of state contracts to political donors.
“The economic development projects as promised and announced are not creating the economic impact” that was expected, Miner said. “What you have is a crisis of confidence . . . that ‘Government doesn’t matter to me,’ ” she said.
Miner wouldn’t comment on whether she would run for governor. Teachout also wouldn’t comment on her political future after losing the 19th Congressional District race. She said she is pursuing anti-corruption efforts with former lawyers of President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush. Teachout ran unsuccessfully in 2014 against Cuomo on the Working Families Party and Democratic lines, and Miner, as mayor and as one-time chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, opposed some of Cuomo’s policies in uncommon public stands.
“We’ve seen a lot of talk, but no real action,” said Teachout, a Fordham Law School professor and author of books on public corruption, said of Albany’s efforts so far. She aimed her criticism in part at Washington and Republican President-elect Donald Trump, who during his campaign promised to “drain the swamp” in the federal government.
“We see a [Trump] administration that itself is already swamped with conflicts of interest,” Teachout said. She referred to Trump’s business ties to other countries from which he is divesting, passing along the businesses to his children while he is president.
On Wednesday, Teachout took aim at state government that continues to allow the “LLC loophole,” which permits companies to avoid the $5,000 corporate limit in campaign donations by donating under subsidiaries. Cuomo, who has benefitted more from the loophole than any politician, has against proposed eliminating the provision. But he continues to face opposition from the Senate’s Republican majority, which defends the loophole as constitutionally protected free speech.
“That makes companies more powerful than political parties; that makes companies more important than individuals,” she said. “We have a swamp right here.”
“There is a deficit of trust,” said Susan Lerner of Common Cause-NY at Tuesday’s news conference in the Capitol. She urged the legislature to adopt early voting to boost turnout.