BY DEAN SKELOS
The recent scandals involving Democratic politicians from New York City have led a number of self-styled “reformers” to argue that the solution to cleaning up government lies in passing a public campaign finance bill. It’s really code for funding their political campaigns with your tax dollars. I can’t think of a worse idea.
Under this proposal, politicians would use as much as $286 million in taxpayer money next year to fund their campaigns, including their negative television ads, slick mailers and the robocalls you hate. With our state’s limited resources, does anyone really believe we should make it easier for politicians to run for re-election at the expense of funding our schools, fixing our roads and restoring the governor’s cuts to programs that affect the developmentally disabled?
The New York City Campaign Finance system, in which participants receive a whopping $6 in taxpayer funds for every $1 raised, is held up by these so-called reformers as a model for a statewide system.
But, let’s look at the facts. Dozens of candidates have abused the system and wasted taxpayer dollars on noncompetitive campaigns. Why would we extend that system statewide and put every New York taxpayer on the hook?
Rather than clean up the system, taxpayer-funded political campaigns have been a recipe for more corruption.
State Sen. Malcolm Smith, arrested on charges of trying to bribe his way onto the New York City mayoral ballot, was reportedly interested in qualifying for matching funds so he could keep the taxpayer dollars flowing.
Disgraced Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner faces a “use it or lose it” proposition this year when it comes to the $1.5 million in taxpayer matching funds that he believes he’s entitled to. Mr. Weiner hasn’t made a final decision about running for mayor of New York City, but the taxpayer financing system may make the decision for him.
Some politicians have even been accused of creating fictitious donors to maximize the taxpayer dollars they receive. New York City Comptroller John Liu‘s former campaign treasurer and a fundraiser were both recently found guilty of doing so.
Rather than leading to more competitive elections, incumbents who run in taxpayer-funded elections are just as likely to be re-elected.
If you don’t believe me, listen to what the state’s top business groups are saying about taxpayer-funded political campaigns.
The Business Council of New York State opposes them, arguing that “In a state that already taxes too much and spends too much, we are concerned with new, permanent, nine-figure expenditure commitments.”
In addition, Unshackle Upstate calls taxpayer funded political campaigns a “scam” and asserts that “a penny more, a dime more, a dollar more paid by the taxpayers is simply bad public policy.”
With all due respect to the so-called good-government groups, who are often more of a hindrance than a help, I would rather listen to the real-world job creators of New York.
Want to know more about this public financing proposal?
Take a close look at who is behind it, most notably the scandal-scarred Working Families Party, an outfit that arguably has the most to gain from accessing the taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars. Even though the Working Families Party remains under investigation by a special prosecutor for breaking New York’s current campaign finance laws, they continue to lead this “reform” effort. You can’t make this stuff up.
New York needs more disclosure and better enforcement of existing campaign finance law violations, but we don’t need taxpayer-funded political campaigns.
It’s a terrible idea for taxpayers. And it’s a terrible idea for our state.
Dean Skelos, a Republican from Nassau County, is the state Senate majority leader.