Late in the day yesterday, Gov. Cuomo's commission that's been investigating public corruption issued a preliminary report, calling for a public campaign finance system for state elections while also tantalizingly noting without being specific that it has uncovered "deplorable conduct, some of it perfectly legal yet profoundly wrong; some of it potentially illegal."
As the panel continues to put together its final report – which isn’t due until more than a year from now – it's unclear if any of its recommendations will actually be enacted by the legislature that it's simultaneously investigating and trying to embarrass during an election year.
While tens of thousands of New York City voters care about taxes, jobs, education, and their safety, few would boast about – or even be able to explain – the city's campaign finance system that has been held up as a national model. That bodes ill for the commission that wants to adopt a similar system on the state level. Campaign finance is a great topic with newspaper editorial page editors but rarely captures the public's attention.
Helping critics of campaign finance reform is the fact that seven of the commission's 25 members dissented from that recommendation, questioning whether such a system is tenable when outside groups can spend unlimited amounts of money to influence an election.
All of this means that the commission's best hope may be to sanitize by using sunlight; continue to push its agenda and raise ethical questions about lawmakers who have been loathe to create a compromise plan between the State Assembly and State Senate. But relying on shame may not be a smart strategy in the Capitol where it seems to be in short supply.