(Updates with statement by DiNapoli campaign.)
ALBANY -- Republican candidate for state comptroller Robert Antonacci on Wednesday hit the traditional targets for challengers -- Albany corruption and waste -- but said he has a rare skill set to take them on.
“I have the professional credentials to get into certain aspects of any issue, being a CPA and an attorney,” said Antonacci, the Onondaga County comptroller and Syracuse native.
Antonoacci targeted Democratic state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in the scandals in Albany that prompted creation of the Moreland Commission on public corruption. Now, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is investigating the commission after the Cuomo administration was accused of interfering, but which the administration called appropriate advice.
“If I was the New York State comptroller there wouldn’t be any need for a Moreland Commission,” Antonacci said in one of his first Albany news conferences. “You can tie back state contracts to political donations, you can look at [lawmakers’] per diem accounts, you can stay involved with the flow of money.”
The comptroller, a Great Neck Democrat and former assemblyman, hasn’t commented on the Moreland conflict, citing the federal investigation. No reports show any involvement by DiNapoli.
"Comptroller DiNapoli has effectively fought fraud and corruption at the state and local level of government, which is his constitutional responsibility," said Dinapoli campaign spokesman Doug Forand. "His work has led to 50 arrests and restitution to the taxpayers of over $7 million. That’s the job he was elected to do, and it’s the job he will continue doing on behalf of the taxpayers."
Antonacci’s campaign is also a test of a pilot program approved by the Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to use public money to help fund campaigns. The experiment aimed at limiting the influence of big donors provides $6 for $1 raised through small donations under strict conditions.
Antonacci wouldn’t say how much he has raised. He said he will meet the threshold required to tap into the pilot system by securing at least $200,000 through at least 2,000 contributors by Sept. 10.
In the June filings required by the state Board of Elections, DiNapoli had about $2.8 million in his campaign fund to Antonacci’s $75,000. DiNapoli isn't participating, saying the pilot program is seriously flawed, although DiNapoli has long supported public financing of campaigns.
Antonacci said he entered the race to help end the exodus of young people out of state for jobs and end the costly mandated programs from Albany on local governments, which drive up property taxes.
“I said to myself, ‘You can sit on the sidelines and do nothing, or you can get involved and keep elected officials accountable,” Antonacci said. “And whether I win or lose, I think I’m doing that.”