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Citizens Union

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Campaign financing might not have been the first thing Gov. Andrew Cuomo wanted to discuss today.

Cuomo debuted a campaign finance reform proposal late in the legislative session this year without much of a public push and watched the bill arrive stillborn.

Now, with the July campaign finance filiing deadline having come and gone, Cuomo's cash and how he raises it is a major topic of discussion. 

What stood out to many reporters and insiders was that much of Cuomo's cash comes from large donors who control limited liability corporations. The donors give as individuals and through their LLCs and to organizations that support him. This allows major donors to skirt the state's already-lax limits on individual donations. 

Today on The Capitol Press Room, Susan Arbetter asked Cuomo about using "loopholes" in the campaign finance law. "Those aren’t loopholes,” Cuomo said. “Those are the laws that are written.”

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Democratic State Sen. Kevin Parker, of Brooklyn, isn't interested in hearing about a dysfunctional Legislature mired in corruption and inaction. He's been busy introducing bills — lots and lots of bills.

Parker introduced 43 bills on May 16 — the Senate's last day of unlimited bill introduction. 

The 43 bills run the gamut of legislative matters:

  • S.5442 would require the state parks commissioner to create a New York Abolition and Civil Rights History Trail.
  • S.5523 would create a pilot program for social impact bonds designed to lower recidivism in juvenile justice programs
  • S.5386 would require creditors to inform debtors that written communications are available in large print.
  • S.5446 would allow same day voter registration and voting.

Last month, Bill Mahoney of The New York Public Interest Research Group estimated that the Legislature is on track to duplicate their performance from last year when they passed the fewest bills two-house bills since 1914.

And Mahoney says that, as of now, the Legislature is still on pace to perform just as badly.

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Albany watchers thought last year's legislative session was slow. Not so fast! This year has been even slower. 

Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group has provided us with a breakdown of bills passed this year and at this point last year. Keep in mind that Mahoney has previously noted that 2012 was a year "when they passed the fewest two-house bills since at least 1914." 

Mahoney also notes, "Of course, the total number of bills is only one way to measure a session’s success. The session will ultimately be judged by what they do on the biggest issues, including their response to the crime wave rocking the Capitol." 

Passed Senate: 295
2012 passed Senate through 5/19: 475

Passed Assembly: 235
2012 passed Assembly through 5/19: 366

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Senate Republicans held a hearing today on the New York City public campaign finance system in what seemed as an attempt to beat back the push by a number of advocacy groups and legislators for the state to adopt a similar system. Things probably didn't work out as Republicans had intended.

Testimony was by invite=only and a number of good government groups protested their exclusion.

Outside the small hearing room, six Senate sergeants-at-arms guarded the doorway. The public was told there was no room for them and were barred entry.  

"Let us in!" protesters shouted, the words thundering through the room from outside each time someone entered, causing consternation among speakers and legislators. Protesters discovered that the windows were open to the room and started their chant quietly outside the window. Some threw money and asked, "How much do you want to let us in? What does it cost?" Sergeants-at-arms were called in to drive away the protesters. They shut the window and eventually State Troopers responded. 

The push for campaign finance reform has come as a slew of Demcoratic legislators have been arrested by federal authorities on corruption charges. But Senate Republicans continue to be the main benefactors of large corporate donations that are currently allowed in loopholes under current law. 

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The Senate elections committee will hold hearings on corruption in the New York City public campaign finance system at 11 a.m. tomorrow. Oral testimony is by invite-only, and it just so happens that a good number of campaign finance experts from New York are not welcome to speak.

Bill Mahoney, New York Public Interest Research Group's number-cruncher extraordinare, just happens to be one of those campaign finance experts.

"Oral testimony is by invitation only," Mahoney said. "I suppose they are not interested in hearing from actual New Yorkers who have been effected by the system. They just want to hear people criticize a system that works better than ours."

Members of some of the state's largest government watchdog groups wrote the committe chairs — Sens. Thomas O'Mara and Diane Savino — to ask to be allowed to testify but they were not allowed to give oral testimony. The groups include Common Cause/NY, The Brennan Center, Citizen Action New York and Center For Working Families. 

When asked about why good government groups were not allowed to give oral testimony, Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif replied:"I don't believe that is accurate. Dick Dadey, from Citizens Union, is on our confirmed speaker list."

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