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Recent Scandals Seem To Heighten Urgency To Reform State Campaign Finance System

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TWC News: Recent Scandals Seem To Heighten Urgency To Reform State Campaign Finance System
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There is heightened urgency for New York State to reform its campaign finance system, one of several items on Governor Andrew Cuomo's agenda this year, in light of the recent corruption scandals. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

Albany watchers say it's a rarity at the State Capitol when the various parties and factions agree on anything, but there does appear to be broad consensus that something needs to be done this year to crack down on corruption.

Democrats want to change how money flows to candidates by implementing a system of campaign finance reform. The Independent Democratic Conference in the Senate, which controls the Senate agenda in a coalition government with Republicans, has what many say is the strongest proposal. On Wednesday, they held there first of four public hearings on the subject.

"I think it's very much on the table because the public wants it," said Susan Lerner of Common Cause New York. "If you look at the polling that's been done, when you ask New Yorkers if they want a comprehensive package of campaign finance reform built around a center of public financing, more than 60 percent of New Yorkers say yeah, that's the package they want.'"

Republicans, however, are opposed to using any public money for campaigns.

During a cabinet meeting, Governor Andrew Cuomo talked more about his plan to legalize gambling and bring three casinos to upstate New York. NY1 asked if he would consider using casino revenue as a source of public funding for campaigns.

"Their position is, that money would normally go to the general fund, therefore, that money is public money," Cuomo said. "And the opposition to public finance is, we're not using public money to run campaigns."

But advocates for reform say there are ways of funding the system without the direct use of public money.

"If we're going to do this, we should do it right," said Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein. "Yeah, we can figure out an alternative way to fund the system. In our legislation, we're looking at putting a user fee or a surtax on certain types of lawsuits brought on behalf of the state."

Supporters of campaign finance reform say New York State should model its system on New York City's, which they say has been a huge success.

Republicans say it's just the opposite. They say New York City's campaign finance system has not been a success, and that 6 to 1 matching has just fueled corruption. They are holding their own set of public hearings. The first one is next week in Albany.

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