January 22, 2014

Fortune Favors the Bold (Pt 4)

One of the things Governor Cuomo is a big proponent of is ethics reform,  including public financing of elections. He included a reference to this in his State of the State Address -- take a look:
I propose new anti-bribery and corruption laws, public financing of elections, independent enforcement at the board of elections, and disclosure of outside clients with business before the state of New York.
He's been steadfast in his support of these ideas, and his Moreland Commission came out with recommendations similar enough to Cuomo's ideas that one can't help thinking either he had a hand in writing them, or the Commission plagiarized his writing.  And while his support for reform has not waivered,  his own fundraising has been prolific.  Cuomo has $33 million in his war chest for this fall's election, with who knows how many more opportunities he has on his calendar to rake in more.

In his now famous Capitol Pressroom interview with  Susan Arbetter last week, Cuomo talked about politics and money, in a most enlightening and bold manner. Arbetter noted his successful fundraising to date, and wondered if it was to scare off potential opponents. Cuomo noted (and I'm paraphrasing here) that someone with a ton of money could run for office and win, simply because they had a ton of money, not because of any ideals or anything.  He's not necessarily talking about Donald Trump, but Trump has suggested he'd spend a couple bucks of his own money, if he decided to run.

Where the interview got interesting is when Arbetter pressed the Governor on where his money is coming from:
NYPIRG (Note: that's the New York Public Interest Research Group) noted that 81% of your donors gave at least $10,000, and some of your largest donations are from corporations from New York City who are giving in the hundreds of thousands of dollars (emphasis added).  And the question is does that make you more responsive to those interests? 
In classic Cuomo style, our Sonofa Governor answered:
Well...I think a lot of this conversation is baloney, frankly.
Think about that: 81% of his donations are over ten grand, bigger than you and I could or would afford, and he's got corporations giving hundreds of thousands of dollars.  It's NOT baloney, the question she asked -- it's a great question.  And he didn't stop at the deli counter -- he kept going.
What the people want to know, what they say to me is look, we want to know that you're working for us, and you're not working for anyone else. Because there are some politicians out there who can be bought for $10, and some politicians who cannot be bough for $10 billion. It's a question of the person, it's a question of character, and it's a question of values. It's not how much does it cost to buy a politician, it's a politician who can't be bought.
Now you and I can guess where Cuomo thinks he is in this equation. He believes, "in his heart" that we know he can't be bought, that we know he's working for our best interests and for the best interest of the state, and where the money comes from doesn't matter a whole hill of beans in the overall scheme of things. Why?
I'm going to make the decision that I think is right for them because at the end of the night I go home and I put my head on the pillow and I have to be able to fall asleep and I can't fall asleep if I don't believe I'm doing the right thing.
I can't fall asleep at night because our house is noisy and our cats are restless and My Sweet Baboo snores and there's a firehouse down the street and because I lie awake at night sometimes wondering why a politician would take hundreds of thousands, no, millions of dollars from corporations, when it's people that vote.

Cuomo knows that people like me have perceptions like that, so he thinks that we need public financing of elections.  He does note however, that even making a change like that may not be enough. He can vouch for his own character, but not everyone else's -- and regardless of the dollar limit that ultimately gets attached to any public campaign financing legislation,
if we elect people who can be bought, we're electing the wrong people. 
On that, the Gov and I agree.

On the rest, well, I have different ideas on campaign finance reform, many of which I've shared before. And until we make some really big changes - term limits for starters -- many times, those whom fortune favors are not necessarily the bold.  They're probably just incumbents.

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