A compromise may be in the works for campaign finance reform as lawmakers consider a bill to try out public financing on just one race. Our Nick Reisman explains.
NEW YORK STATE -- As state officials consider an overhaul campaign finance laws and possibly restrict notoriously high contribution limits, Speaker Sheldon Silver says he may get behind a bill that would public financing the next state comptroller's race in 2014 as an experimental program. He's backing the bill alongside a broader measure to publicly finance political campaigns.
“We're willing to put them both out there and see which ones would be more palatable to the Senate,” said Silver.
The measure was first introduced in 2010 when Comptroller Tom DiNapoli proposed it while running for re-election. Silver indicated this week he's supportive of tightening campaign finance laws, but added he's concerned mega rich candidates could take advantage. Billionaire Michael Bloomberg was able to self-fund his three successful campaigns for New York City mayor, easily bypassing the city's public financing system.
Silver said, “It's unfortunate there's no way to regulate that, so when we redistrict other people, we're slowly going to make the political system basically a playground for the wealthy if we're not careful as we do that.”
But critics say a public financing system is just too expensive for a state still dealing with the fallout from the economic recession. The influential Conservative Party released a memo this week saying the idea would help fringe candidates enter political campaigns. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said on Thursday he was opposed to the idea, also.
“We haven't really conferenced it. I know personally I don't believe taxpayers should be paying for campaigns or campaigns of people they don't support,” Skelos said.
Good-government advocates admit a public financing system will cost taxpayers at least $30 million, but say the benefits could save New Yorkers money in the long run. As for a pilot program, reformers point to what they consider to be the success of the New York City system.
“We have seen a pilot program in New York City for the past couple decades and we've seen that it works great and we would like to see something broader happen with a bill put in this year,” said Bill Mahoney, NYPIRG Legislative Analyst.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, says he will introduce his own measure.