It’s no longer enough to note that a lot has happened in the last week. With weeks like the ones we have been experiencing lately, you have to specify the topic.
Take the topic of money in campaigns. One candidate for governor, Republican Marc Molinaro, proposed a series of measures. He proposed term limits, better tracking of the billions spent on economic development and a requirement that lawmakers would have to vote on the millions they bring back to the districts. All seem only marginally related to the topic of money and campaigns until you connect the dots and realize that the longer someone stays in the Legislature or statewide office, the more power he has to use that taxpayer money to gain attention and earn support for re-election as well as the ability to steer taxpayer money to those who have courted favor in many ways, the most direct being campaign donations.
Molinaro also has come out for two direct measures that would reduce but not eliminate the way donations skew government spending. One would end the loophole that now allows a business created as a limited liability company to avoid the restrictions on donations from businesses created in other ways. So far there is bipartisan avoidance of doing anything about that. Another would ban contributions from state contractors, a suggestion made all the more topical by the corruption conviction of some very large contractor-contributors.
As Molinaro put it earlier this spring, "Andrew Cuomo's Albany is a cesspool of corruption.”
Rather than clean up, Cuomo decided to get clever, as we learned from the latest round of campaign finance reports last week.
Stung by the criticism that he relies too much on large donations from the wealthy and well-connected, Cuomo set out to prove that the little people like him, too, and give him little amounts of money. He accompanied the latest tally with the news that his small donations had increased and that many of them were $250 or less.
That ignored the inconvenient fact that of the $6 million he raised in the past six months only 1 percent came from such donations. But it also obscured a more deceptive practice.
In those last six months, friends and family of Cuomo employees and loyalists went on a small-donation spending binge, giving $1 or $5 in addition to other donations to artificially increase the number of small donations and small donors.
How deceptive is the governor’s claim? Consider that one donor who shares an address with a Cuomo campaign aide made 69 contributions in the final days before the deadline, 67 of them for $1 apiece.
There’s nothing illegal about this. But there’s also nothing honest about it.
And while Molinaro is happy to make gestures in the direction of cleaning up this system, he has virtually no support among his fellow party members who know a good thing when they see it.
That good thing, from the point of view of most Democrats and Republicans alike, is the ability to haul in money from people who will want favors in return while pretending that does not happen.