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Public financing of campaigns on the table


Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in yesterday's state of the state speech that he wants the state to offer public financing of elections.
Here's how it works right now: It's the Wild West. Anybody can give gobs of cash to any lawmaker, and once they get that cash, they can pretty much do anything with it, even when they're out of office, even after they've died.
Mr. Cuomo's plan, which is not yet fleshed out, would somehow involve "public financing" of campaigns. That means taxpayer money would fund the commercials and the parade candy and the palm cards that candidates pay for, putting candidates on more equal footing and, advocates say, taking some of the special interest dollars out of elections.
I spoke to three lawmakers yesterday about the possibility of public financing — Republican Sens. Patty Ritchie and Joe Griffo and Democratic Assemblywoman Addie Russell. This will come as little surprise to those of you who followed Citizens United, the Supreme Court case that struck down federal contribution limits for corporations and unions: the Republicans were against it, and the Democrat was for it.
My notes are buried in a suitcase somewhere, but the basic argument that Mrs. Ritchie and Mr. Griffo made was that they don't want taxpayer money going toward elections.
Mrs. Russell said she was open to the campaign finance change, and she specifically cited the Citizens United case and what she considers the troubling and insidious effect of unfettered outside money.

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