Wednesday, August 27, 2014

NY Times Refuses To Endorse Cuomo In NY Primary

While acknowledging Gov. Andrew Cuomo's progressive stances on gay marriage, gun control and minimum wage, The New York Times refused to endorse him in the New York Democratic primary, Sept. 9, due to his blocking an independent commission on campaign finance corruption, which looked into issues involving him and his supporters. The Times also cited Cuomo's cutting funds to education while insisting on tax cuts for the wealthy. The paper did not endorse Cuomo's opponent, Zephyr Teachout, professor at Fordham Law School and an expert on political corruption, due to her limited political experience. The Times, however, stated that "those who want to register their disappointment with Mr. Cuomo’s record on changing the culture of Albany may well decide that the best way to do that is to vote for Ms. Teachout":

The most important failures...were in ethics reform. New York still has no comprehensive campaign finance system and has one of the highest donation limits in the country. Mr. Cuomo proposed a better system, but, when legislators balked, he threw up his hands and claimed there was nothing he could do. Where was the energy and determination he showed on marriage rights and guns?

Corporations and special interests can still give unlimited amounts to party “housekeeping” accounts. The rank partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts, which he promised to end, remains in place for a decade because he chose not to make reforming it a priority.

The worst moment of all came when Mr. Cuomo blocked the progress of the independent commission he set up to investigate corruption after the panel began to look into issues that may have reflected badly on him and his political supporters. As The Times reported in July, Mr. Cuomo’s closest aides pushed back every time the commission began looking at the governor’s own questionable practices, including a committee set up to support his agenda, which became Albany’s biggest lobbying spender and did not disclose its donors. Now a United States attorney is pursuing the questions the commission raised, including the ones the governor wanted dropped.

Mr. Cuomo says the purpose of the commission was the leverage it gave him to push an ethics law through the Legislature and that he disbanded the panel when the law, agreed to in March, achieved roughly nine of 10 goals. But the missing goal — a strong public finance system that cut off unlimited donations — was always, by far, the most important method of reducing corruption, a much bigger reform than the strengthened bribery laws he settled for.

Ms. Teachout brings a refreshing seriousness to the job of cleaning up state government, making a strong case for the urgency of rescuing politics from unchecked corporate power. The centerpiece of her platform is a campaign finance system modeled on the matching funds program that has proved successful in New York City.

She would limit contributions to candidates to $2,600, compared with the current $60,000, and would keep corporations from giving five-figure donations, a loophole that Mr. Cuomo has exploited to raise millions of dollars. These proposals are as thoughtful as one would expect from a leading expert on combating public corruption, particularly given her work promoting transparency as national director of the Sunlight Foundation in 2006 and 2007.

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