While Gov. Cuomo and state legislators are patting themselves on the back for approving an on-time budget, some of them should be kicking themselves in the backside for failing to include a comprehensive system of public campaign finance reform in the package.
Instead, lawmakers approved an “experimental” public campaign financing plan that affects only one office: state comptroller, for which Thomas DiNapoli is up for re-election. It’s little more than a token gesture that the state Board of Elections isn’t even equipped to administer on such short notice.
We’d urge DiNapoli and any other candidates for the job to opt out. The comptroller isn’t the problem. The corruption is rooted in the Legislature. Lawmakers have been reluctant for years to enact reform because the current system is too comfy. It lets incumbents raise huge sums of money in a variety of ways, not the least of which is through lobbyists looking for favors. This discourages challengers who could never afford to keep up.
This allows legislators to become entrenched and gain power that in too many cases has paved the way to corruption. In the past eight years alone, more than 30 public officials have been involved in scandals.
Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, supported the public campaign finance reform package that has now been compromised by the comptroller-only plan. Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, didn’t. Griffo thinks a better way to deal with entrenchment and the corruption it might breed is to establish term limits, and he has sponsored legislation in the Senate to do just that. It would limit members to 12 years and the executive branch to eight.
We agree that Griffo’s plan would be a good step. But so would public financing of campaigns as originally presented by Gov. Cuomo, who disappointingly rolled over and settled for the compromise deal. Throwing the public a bone isn’t acceptable. Campaign finance reform must not be abandoned. Contact Griffo and other legislators and tell them so. As the Brennan Center for Justice said: “Unless the governor and legislature find a way to revive this promise in the coming weeks, all New Yorkers will live with the consequences of this failure.”