Albany Round-up

May 3, 2012

Cuomo targets Super PACS in campaign reform

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo railed Wednesday against so-called "super PACs" and their use of millions of dollars to influence voters without disclosing donors, while the biggest group acting that way in New York was created to back him.

"Court rulings that have brought unprecedented amounts of money into the political system, these quote-unquote super PACs, that can raise money, no disclosure of who the donors are and can raise millions and millions of dollars," Cuomo said on public radio's "Capitol Connection."

"The power of money in this Capitol is unbelievable," Cuomo said, in defending the need for campaign finance reforms.

Current proposals include voluntary public financing of campaigns and lower donation limits for candidates, which Cuomo noted could make super PAC money even more important.

The lobbying group supporting Cuomo since he took office last year, the Committee to Save New York, was created by a business group official and includes CEOs and chambers of commerce. It has spent $10 million to blanket New York with TV ads promoting Cuomo and his policies as he continues to ride high poll numbers.

"The $10 million — the most spent by a lobbying group in New York state — must have had a positive effect on the public's view of the governor and his policies, on his stratospheric poll numbers," said Doug Muzzio, a political science professor at Baruch College. "The issue is how much impact, which is almost impossible to determine."

The committee differs in important ways from super PACs in terms of disclosure. It has reported its spending as required of lobbying groups and is subject to disclosing donors as early as July under an ethics bill pushed by Cuomo. And while it supported key Cuomo policies including a cap on the growth in property taxes, spending cuts and public pension reform, it broke with the governor on ethics reform, by opposing gay marriage, and on some other issues.

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Albany Round-up