WNYT.com

State Senate Dems: Campaign finance reform could be coalition's first test

Posted at: 12/11/2012 5:11 PM
Updated at: 12/11/2012 6:06 PM
By: John McLoughlin

ALBANY - Newly elected Democrats in the State Legislature are putting that new coalition in the State Senate on notice: saying campaign finance reform, could be the coalition's first big test.

These "Traditional" Democrats are challenging that five-member "Independent Democratic Coalition" to get their Republican partners in the Senate to support public financing of elections, something the GOP seems dead-set against.

So-called Traditional Democrats say it's time to see if members of that Independent Democratic Coalition can get their GOP partners to support  reform measures like public financing of campaigns.

Sen. Neil Breslin says, "This is the year, we have the governor on our side and this is the time to do it..."

Sen. Breslin was one of the newly elected, or reelected Democratic lawmakers, joining labor, religious and community groups and demanding the elimination of so-called special interest money from campaigns.

Karen Scharff of Citizen Action says, “When it comes to how the people feel, they know that the system has been hijacked by people with money..."

Republican majority leader Dean Skelos  and the five so-called Independent Democrats are promising to share control of the Senate by accommodating the legislative priorities of each group, but Skelos says public campaign finance is too expensive.

Skelos says "Problem is that in this time of deficit, the cost of $200,000,000 for a new system of campaign finance.”

Campaign finance reform was a major issue for Cecelia Tkaczyk, whose race against George Amedore remains a question mark.

Tkaczyk says "But in the end the people are gonna say ' We want Cecelia Tkaczyk and we want camnpaign finance reform."

As for Tkaczyk saying that she opposes large donations, Amedore is calling Tkaczyk a "hypocrite,” saying that in the final weeks of their campaign, two special interest PACs spent about half a million dollars trying to get Tkaczyk elected, saying they liked her stand on campaign finance reform.

The outcome in that senate race is still to be decided. Both sides are still in court and Amedore still leads by 111 votes.