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Money in New York Politics: Indictments Not an Issue for New York Politicians Seeking Re-Election

A roundup with the latest news highlighting the corrosive nature of money in New York State politics — and the need for public financing and robust campaign finance reform.

  • Eric Petry
November 10, 2014

Crossposted at ReformNY

The Brennan Center regularly compiles the latest news concerning the corrosive nature of money in New York State politics—and the ongoing need for public financing and robust campaign finance reform. This week’s links were contributed by Eric Petry.

For more stories on an ongoing basis, follow the Twitter hashtags #moNeYpolitics and #fairelex.


Indictments Not an Issue for New York Politicians Seeking Re-Election

Four New York politicians were re-elected on Tuesday despite facing federal indictments.

  • Congressman Michael Grimm won re-election to his Staten Island-based House seat despite facing a 20-count federal indictment for various offenses.
  • State Senator Tom Libous was re-elected with 60 percent of the vote in the 52nd Senate district. Libous still faces a trial on charges of lying to federal investigators, but he is attempting to have the charges thrown out on technical grounds.
  • State Senator John Sampson of Brooklyn was charged this summer with embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars, but still won his primary and general elections by very comfortable margins.
  • State Senator William Scarborough ran uncontested on Tuesday. He was charged and arrested this summer for improper use of campaign funds.

Post-Moreland Reforms Unsuccessful

The New York World in partnership with Capital New York published an assessment of the reforms that Governor Cuomo secured in exchange for shuttering the Moreland Commission earlier this year. These reforms included a pilot program to test public financing, new disclosure rules, and a new office of enforcement at the State Board of Elections. Overall, the article claims, these reforms have been a bust. New York Comptroller, Democrat Tom DeNapoli, opted out of the pilot public financing system, citing the program’s structural flaws. His opponent, Republican Bob Antonacci, did participate in the program, but was unable to raise the requisite $200,000 in matchable contributions to qualify for the public funds. Increased disclosure for outside spending, while necessary, was not a profound reform because New York’s unusually high contribution limits allow big spenders to make direct campaign contributions instead. Finally, the independent enforcement office at the Board of Elections took little action this election cycle and proved to be less independent than planned.

Poll: Small Businesses Support Public Financing

A recent national poll conducted by Small Business Majority shows that 85 percent of small business owners support public financing of elections. The results also show that small employers feel that their voices are drowned out by large corporations, giving big business an unfair advantage in the political process. The poll reflects survey responses from 900 small business owners, with 48 identifying as Republican or independent-leaning Republican, 32 percent as Democrat or independent-leaning Democrat, and 11 percent as independent. 

IDC Senators Want to Remain with Republicans

State Senator Jeff Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, announced last week that the he wants the IDC to remain aligned with the Republican majority, despite promises earlier this summer to form a coalition with the other Democrats in the chamber. The deal struck this summer helped to appease the Working Families Party and major labor unions, allowing Klein and the rest of the IDC senators to avoid difficult primary challenges from the left. But while the IDC Senators won reelection, other Democratic candidates were less successful, leading to Republicans taking 32 seats and maintaining control of the state Senate. The Senate GOP leader, Dean Skelos, would not confirm whether he would welcome a new coalition with the IDC.