It may be a rare moment in the never-ending struggle to achieve campaign finance reform. A moment that some reformers thought might never come.
The reformers now seem to agree that the politicians are starting to do the right thing. Notably, they believe that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, although their reform proposals differ, are both starting to lead the state in the right direction.
The governor and the attorney general, who both won their offices in statewide elections, have offered separate proposals. And leaders of the reform groups Citizens Union and NYPIRG tell me they like what they see. They are optimistic that this may be the year that some basic reforms are effected.
According to NPR in Albany, Schneiderman wants to eliminate what he calls ‘’the dark money” in politics. He would establish new rules requiring non-profit, tax-exempt organizations to disclose the identities of their donors. He would accomplish this under his existing powers. The only drawback: he would not be able to apply these rules to out of state groups, which make heavy contributions in New York campaigns.
Governor Cuomo, according to his office, would try to change the rules of the game by legislation -- and would seek to police not only groups based in New York state but also those from out of state.
Thus, his reforms would go much further than Schneiderman’s. Cuomo told NPR: “I would very much like to have the state of New York be the progressive leader when it comes to campaign finance reform.”
Bill Mahoney of NYPIRG told me: “We are firmly in favor of both sets of proposals. They’re the first concrete ideas presented -- but we’d like to see even more sweeping ideas put into practice. Particularly, it’s now permitted to make contributions to statewide candidates like the governor of up to $60, 800. We’d like to see that limit set closer to $2,500.
“I agree with Cuomo,” Mahoney said, “that a lot needs to be done.”
Political analyst Hank Sheinkopf told me: “It’s clear that Cuomo wants to be the true reformer. Put your money on him. But he needs the cooperation of the Legislature and there’s bound to be resistance. That’s when the real battle will begin. “
He thought the apparent competition between Cuomo and Schneiderman is good for the public. “There’s no better way to get things done.”