“Mr. Cuomo promised to root out corruption and clean up campaign money. It should top his to-do list for 2012,” according to an opinion piece in the New York Times.
Great suggestions, however, the Times neglected to mention the extravagant, family style dinners where a $23 Pecan-walnut salad is paid for by campaign contributors. So, under the present system, when that pol-to-be comes a knockin’ you might as well entice them with a bottle of fine Irish influence because they’ll just use the money to treat friends and family to a night on the town.
This is the wish list compiled by the cunctative daydreamers over at the Times Editorial board.
- CAMPAIGN SPENDING New York’s law on campaign spending also needs to be overhauled. It is currently so weak that unsuspecting donors end up footing the bill for lawyers, cigars, designer luggage, country club memberships and cars. Joseph Bruno, the former Senate majority leader, once used $1,300 in campaign funds for a pool cover for his indoor pool, arguing that he sometimes had political functions nearby.
- PUBLIC FINANCING OF ELECTIONS This is a fundamental reform that can be readily achieved if the state simply copies New York City’s system. This is a nationally recognized, voluntary system that rewards small contributions up to $175 with a 6-to-1 match. In 2009, 37 percent of the private money to candidates came from city donors who gave $250 or less. This approach would create healthier elections by encouraging candidates to seek out more small donors and promote competition among candidates.
- LOWER CONTRIBUTION LIMITS New York State’s contribution limits should be brought into line with those in other states. New Yorkers can give almost nine times as much money to a statewide candidate as donors in New Jersey, where the limit is $6,800 for statewide races.
- END THE ‘HOUSEKEEPING’ FARCE There are no limits on what a donor can give to a political party for “housekeeping” to maintain a party’s offices and other “ordinary activities” unconnected to candidates. But nobody in Albany really checks on how this money is used, and it’s not trivial. In 2010, New York’s political parties received $11.4 million in housekeeping contributions.
- TOUGHER ENFORCEMENT The State Board of Elections needs more enforcement authority. The $500 fine for failing to file a campaign finance report, for example, is a pittance some lawmakers simply ignore. New York needs a strong enforcement team with heftier fines, more on par with those imposed by the Federal Election Commission where failure to file can cost thousands of dollars.