Campaign finance reform still a hot topic
A recent Supreme Court ruling has some worried about the effect it will have on efforts to implement campaign finance reform in New York State. Our Nick Reisman has more.
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NEW YORK STATE -- The legislative session for 2012 is over, but the seeds of a new effort to overhaul New York's campaign finance laws is underway. Supporters say the Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Citizens United decision, which essentially allows unlimited contributions from corporations and unions to political campaigns, could galvanize a change.
“I think the public and certainly advocates believe the Supreme Court has really undermined any help from the courts and so it's up to the state Legislatures to address the problems,” said NYPIRG Legislative Director Russ Haven.
The 2012 political season has already become defined by outsider groups spending millions of dollars on candidates and causes with their donors shrouded in secrecy. It's thanks to a 2011 decision from the Supreme Court that deregulated much of the federal law governing unlimited contributions.
Haven said, “As a practical matter, the kinds of things that we're talking about, like a public campaign finance system, stronger enforcement, better disclosures, all the things the governor has talked about that the speaker and others have had in their bills, none of those things would be affected by what the Supreme Court did.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo is revamping the effort to overhaul the state's campaign laws with a publicly financed system with a new coalition led by wealthy advocates and his former aide, Steve Cohen. Still, it's a good headline, but an issue that voters register little enthusiasm for.
“Campaign finance reform generally doesn't put a lot of food on someone's table. Voters aren't dwelling on it each night, but with the major good government people that would be a nice topping on the cake for the governor if he did it,” said Deputy Senate Minority Leader Neil Breslin.
State lawmakers returned to their districts last week without taking up changes to the law. Senate Republicans oppose public financing of campaigns, saying it's wrong to spend taxpayer dollars on political activity.
Breslin said, “Bring both the other sides together and there's some horse trading and get it done, because I do not see the Senate Republicans doing it.”