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Money in New York Politics: Small Donors Drove Teachout Campaign

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
September 26, 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.


Small Donors Drove Teachout Campaign

Campaign finance disclosures filed with the New York Board of Elections this week show that Zephyr Teachout relied heavily on small donations – contributions of $100 or less – to finance her primary challenge against Governor Cuomo in the final weeks leading up to the election. Teachout also spent significantly less than Cuomo over the course of the campaign, but the money she did spend was relatively more effective. As The Washington Post reports, Teachout spent just $1.57 per vote, while Cuomo spent $42.64 for each vote he received. Although she did not win the primary election, Teachout’s surprisingly strong showing was noteworthy because it demonstrates that a candidate can reach voters while focusing on small donors.

Political Corruption Not Unique to Albany, FBI Director Says

On a recent visit to his agency’s Albany field office, FBI Director James Comey said he doesn’t believe that official misconduct is a bigger problem in New York than in other states. The fact that the FBI is doing “lots of public corruption work” in “lots of state capitals,” he continued, shows ethics issues are not unique to Albany. On the other hand, State Integrity Investigation’s corruption risk rankings place New York among the worst states in the country. Certain candidates, like Anndrea Starzak who is challenging Senator Thomas Libous for his seat in the 52nd Senate District, are making public corruption a centerpiece of their campaign platforms. Starzak has campaigned on ethics reform, noting that Albany has seen 26 State legislators leave office due to criminal or ethical misconduct since 1999.

TV Ad Spending Floods New York Airwaves

A study conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and Kantar Media/CMAG estimates that candidates running for statewide office have spent $14.5 million in political ads so far this year. The vast majority of that money has been spent on the race for governor, and most of it by Andrew Cuomo. Despite the high level of spending already recorded this cycle, Cuomo reportedly still has $26 million on hand for the general election against Rob Astorino, which is more than the total he spent during his entire 2010 campaign. If past elections are any indication of what is to come, ad spending will spike just before the election in November, meaning that New Yorkers can anticipate even more political ads than normal this fall on TV as well as radio.