If there is any case to be made for new regulations to ensure integrity in state government, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo quickly points to the rash of recent scandals erupting in Albany.
“The past few months have been a setback,” he said of reform efforts at the University at Buffalo Law School on Wednesday. “They also present an opportunity.”
And he made it clear he wants the State Legislature to pass in the current session ending this month his three-part Public Trust Act, which cracks down on corruption and introduces statewide the concept of public financing of campaigns.
If the Legislature fails to act, he warned, he will use the powers of the state’s Moreland Act to convene a special commission with the authority to empower state agencies like the Board of Elections to strictly enforce the law.
“One way or another,” he said, “we’re going to do it.”
While the governor has been touting his reform efforts for the past several weeks, he is now taking his arguments on the road. His first stop Wednesday was the law school library, where about 80 invited guests settled in among row after row of legal volumes to hear details of the proposal.
Cuomo said his plan would create a new class of public corruption crimes and enhance prosecutors’ ability to crack down on public corruption across the state.
It also includes a voting reforms package to allow youths age 16 and 17 to pre-register to vote and make it easier for them to register at 18. It would also expand access to the ballot for candidates, and allow greater flexibility for affidavit ballots to be counted.
But the most controversial aspect may be a component for public financing of campaigns to reduce the influence of wealthy donors. That is already encountering opposition from Senate Republicans, with their argument echoed Wednesday by Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy.
“The governor is kidding himself if he honestly believes this type of law will stop corruption,” Langworthy said. “We have seen the rampant corruption that this wrong-headed policy has led to in New York City with several politicians being arrested just this year. It has increased corruption with dirty politicians manipulating the system just to get their hands on taxpayer matching funds.”
But Cuomo also journeyed to Syracuse University on Wednesday to make the same case as he now attempts to counter the GOP opposition by building public support.
“I want citizens to have a government they believe in,” he said. “If they believe in government, it will make government actually stronger.”