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Times Union Editorial
The legislative session wasn’t quite the success that Gov. Cuomo says it was.
Change the campaign finance laws — and then talk about legislative triumph.
Governor Cuomo can go on, and on, all he wants about the historic success of this year’s state legislative session. So can Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, the person most responsible for standing in the way of much of the governor’s agenda for change in the very nature of state government.
But victory laps and self-congratulatory speeches don’t get the unfinished business done — the business, that is, of reducing the dangerous influence of big money in politics and limiting the power of well-funded special interests.
The New York that Mr. Cuomo has promised, and the very different state government that the people who elected him had reason to expect by now, are as far off today as they were in the dreary days of any of his predecessors. Or so it seems in a state capital too easily absorbed by political hubris.
Take campaign finance reform and its most critical component, publicly-financed elections.
The latest push for such reform that went beyond mere rhetoric was unveiled Monday by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and some other deep-pocketed progressives. The effort, known as Protect Our Democracy, is taking dead aim at what’s typically the most obstinate obstacle to progressive legislation in New York — the state Senate. Mr. Hughes and his allies are out to change the Senate’s very makeup, to make the prevailing politics there more hospitable to public campaign financing.
“The ultimate goal is we need to create a majority for reform in the Senate,” says Sean Eldridge, Mr. Hughes’ fiance and a former political director for the advocacy group Freedom to Marry. “People are waking up every single morning and seeing another story about money flooding into politics, so we think there’s really a unique opportunity here.”
That it will take people with money to help lessen the influence of people with money in Albany is a telling admission of the reality here. Campaign finance reform won’t happen simply because Mr. Cuomo and a majority of New Yorkers want it done.
Mr. Cuomo’s allies offer the intriguing parallel to last year’s passage in New York of a gay marriage bill. There would once again be a genuine triumph to celebrate if the Senate could overcome its resistance to sharply limiting legal contributions and providing matching public funds to candidates for state office.
For the parallel to hold up, however, Mr. Cuomo needs to be as insistent about reducing the money in politics as he was in giving gays the right to marry. The Senate elections in November are the perfect time and place to begin to duplicate one of his greatest accomplishments to date — and make good on a reform agenda that is still incomplete.
Change the campaign finance laws, governor — or even change the politics necessary to do so — and we’ll gladly indulge you a victory lap that’s as long as you want it to be.