Niagara Gazette

Local News

March 16, 2013

Official elects for a change|Movement seeks to use public dollars to fund campaigns


Niagara Gazette — "We're looking for New York to be a model, to encourage other states to jump into the game," said Anna Galland, executive director of liberal activist group "This is a moment where the states will make the difference, and New York is the lead."

But where backers see public financing as a knife into influence-peddling and corruption, opponents see a tax.

"It would cost taxpayers more than $200 million," said Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos, who could block the bill from a Senate vote. "That's money that would be much better spent on property tax relief or investing more money in rural upstate school districts and underperforming school districts around the state."

There's also the question of whether public financing of campaigns will deliver on its promises.

No conclusive study shows that giving money to people to run for office attracts strong candidates, increases voter turnout, makes races more competitive or reduces the influence of big donors, said political science professor David Primo of the University of Rochester.

He said the aim to increase the number of small donors will probably be accomplished, but, he asked, "does that goal justify the use of scarce public funds?"

The wild card is Cuomo. He resurrected the issue during his State of the State speech in January as part of an agenda that could position him well for a 2016 run for the Democratic nomination for president.

"It's probably one of the most important issues to complete," Cuomo told 1,000 advocates last week in a teleconference to rouse support. Still, Cuomo would only say he was "cautiously optimistic" of passage.

Nationwide, 14 states offer public funds to at least some candidates to state office, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Just Arizona, Connecticut and Minnesota, however, offer funds to candidates for all statewide offices and for the legislature, as New York proposes.

"National progressive groups would like to see New York as a national model," said Michael Kink of the Strong Economy for All coalition. "I think it fits neatly into the governor's goals of cleaning up Albany and also showing New York can take a leadership role."

Big Red Number $105M Legislative elections in New York cost $105 million to fill 212 seats this fall, and incumbents usually won easily

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