Albany’s corruption problem is undeniable and is an embarrassment to our state. While nearly all interests are unified in calling for better enforcement of existing anti-corruption statutes, tougher penalties for bribery, more transparency in campaign finance donations and a host of other common-sense proposals, some special interest groups used this opportunity to try and implement a New York City-style taxpayer financed campaigns program that would have cost hundreds of millions of tax dollars annually.
Unshackle Upstate saw this as nothing more than a waste of taxpayer money and a power grab by influential millionaires and billionaires. Further, taxpayer financed campaigns have not demonstrated any ability to reduce instances of public corruption in New York City, where they have been utilized for close to 25 years.
We proudly led the opposition to this proposal as our opponents dumped more than $2 million to push their agenda.
The final budget includes new anti-corruption and anti-bribery offenses for public officials, increased disclosure requirements for independent expenditure committees or “super PACs” and vests the State Board of Elections with new enforcement powers; all measures supported by Unshackle Upstate.
While our opponents lobbied exhaustively for a full taxpayer financed elections program that included 4 statewide offices and all 213 legislative offices, the final budget establishes a lone public financing pilot program for the State Comptroller’s office.
Considering the amount of funding the opposition has at their disposal and their level of organization, we consider this a David vs. Goliath victory for taxpayers and the business community.
But we can only revel in the victory for a short period. Efforts have already begun to implement a full taxpayer financed system through stand-alone legislation and we are again prepared to be the voice of reason in Albany on behalf of taxpayers.