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Parties Squabble Over Campaign Finance Reform

Sen Tom Duane calls for public campaing financing at press conference
Sen Tom Duane calls for public campaing financing at press conference

Democrats and Republicans in the State Senate engaged in partisan bickering over reform of the state’s campaign finance system.

Senate Democrats, who are the minority party in that house, held a news conference with government reform advocates to push for public financing of campaigns, a bill Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson says will lessen the influence of big money special interests in politics.

“Government is being hijacked right now by the Super PACs,” Sampson said.  “You have the haves versus the have- nots.”

While the Democrats were still speaking, Senate Republicans, who are the majority party, responded via e-mail.

“We're not surprised that the Senate Democrats, who nearly bankrupted this state, would want to force New Yorkers to spend $200 million in taxpayer money to fund political campaigns rather than investing those dollars in our schools or providing incentives to help businesses create jobs,” said GOP spokesman Scott Reif.

Senator Eric Adams, sponsor of the public campaign finance bill, responded.

“I commend them in their ability to write good sound bites,” said Adams. “But I wrote a good bill. And what we need to do is critique the bill on its substance.”

Many of the Senate Democrats are also unhappy with the Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo listed public campaign finance reform as a goal in his election campaign, and mentioned it in his State of the State message, but recently cast doubt on the bill’s chances for passage this year, saying that in an election year, there’s not a “tremendous appetite” for it.

That incensed Senator Tom Duane, a Democrat from Manhattan. He says if the governor tries as hard to get campaign finance reform passed as he did to achieve legalization of same sex marriage and a new lowered benefit pension tier for public workers, then the bills can become law this year.

“The governor, when he puts his mind to something, he can win,” said Duane.

Senator Duane and other Senate Democrats are still smarting from Cuomo’s authorization of new district lines for the Senate that they say were drawn to favor majority party republicans. Senator Duane says he does not want to see that happen again with campaign finance reform.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.