(Alas, an early April Fool's Day piece; pity it isn't true.)
NYACK, N.Y. -- Andrew Cuomo, in his first visit to this riverfront village as New York governor, announced today two bills to end special-interest financing of political campaigns. Assembly A. 165 and Senate S. 276 will, if approved, ban all election spending not funded by taxpayers, especially that from lobbies.
“We must return government to the people,” said Cuomo from the bandstand in Memorial Park. “This beautiful Hudson River that we now look at was once polluted with industrial waste and sewage. It was the people’s outrage against that environmental poisoning which prompted river cleanup four decades ago. Now we must rid Albany, our towns and our villages of the pollution of elected officials chosen by the moneyed interests.”
In symbolic gesture, Cuomo walked to the river’s edge, scooped up a bucket of water and poured it on a pile of currency marked “Tainted”. “Tainted,” the governor said, “tainted profits obtained for big business and others by lobbies that vigorously push legislation feeding the voracious greed appetite and which give us a lightly regulated financial market, lax environmental law, overcharging for public works projects, favoritism for particular groups, tax inequality, goughing utilities, the blocking of health care reform and government change for all the people -- Democrats, Republicans, Tax Partiers, independents.”
Cuomo said special interests would no longer hide behind “freedom of speech” to justify paying for campaigns but instead would have their voice heard at public hearings. “If any lobby, if any special interest wants to tell the people why such and such should be done, why this or that law ought be passed, it can do so loud and clear in the public forum and not by throwing big bucks into campaigns and then end up owning the officials.”
The governor was asked by Richard Kavesh, Nyack mayor, how candidates would, without contributions, finance ever more expensive campaigns. Cuomo replied that each candidate would receive a set amount based on the type of office and the number of voters to be reached. The fund would be underwritten by taxpayers, and each candidate could choose how to spend the allotted amount. Government-sponsored forums in counties, towns and villages would also provide a message platform, and Twitter and Facebook accounts would be established.
“Despite the seemingly large expense for taxpayers,” Cuomo said, “the people will actually save billions when true-cost contracts are let, when we seek real health care and other reform, when we protect the environment, when we watch investment and other financial dealings. And you know what? Big business will make billions, too, because New York will be a leader in doing what’s right for the citizenry, and it will be the place to live and work. We will add business.”
Bills A.165 and S.276 will hit the floor of the Legislature later today. Cuomo predicts overwhelming passage since opposing the legislation would have public officials admitting they trade favors for money.
OOPS! Sorry to say, good people, but this is an early April 1 piece. Perhaps some day, some leader, somewhere, will have the courage to ban special-interest money from ever lining a politician’s pocket. Gov. Cuomo has at least tried.