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ICYMI: Sean Eldrige and Steve Cohen joined me on CapTon last night to discuss Protect Our Democracy, a new campaign that will work with the Cuomo administration on a coordinated push for campaign finance reform using a similar model to the one successfully employed last year to get a same-same marriage bill passed in Albany.
Just like with gay marriage, the focus will again be on the closely-divided Senate. Eldridge, who, along with his fiance, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, seeded Protect Our Democracy with $250,000, said the organization’s first focus will be on trying to elect reform-minded senators in the upcoming fall elections.
I found that particularly interesting, since Gov. Andrew Cuomo has so far studiously avoided taking sides in the re-match between the Democrats and Republican for control of the majority (although it could be, and has been, argued that he showed his preference by signing the GOP’s redistricting plan into law).
I asked Eldridge and Cohen if Protect Our Democracy is a back door effort by the governor to help the Democrats win back the majority.
“It is not so much the Democrats and Republicans and the party affiliations that matter, but building a coalition for change that may transcend those particular lines,” replied Cohen, Cuomo’s former chief of staff, who spearheaded the same-sex marriage campaign.
“It’s certainly not a back door effort by the governor. The governor is going to take whatever positions he wants, and whatever he deems appropriate, with respect to the elections in November. This is an effort beyond that to try to get real reform in the state of New York.”
Eldridge and Cohen also said that they’re not backing any particular piece of campaign reform legislation at this moment. There are several bills floating around out there, including one sponsored by Senate Minority Leader John Sampson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon SIlver that establishes a public campaign finance system.
Protect Our Democracy should not be confused with NY LEAD, a pro-campaign finance reform effort launched by a number of well-heeled political donors, with which Elrdridge is also associated. NY LEAD was intended to be a public information campaign, Elrdridge told me, whereas Protect Our Democracy will have a political focus via a 501(c)(4).