ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is relying on deep-pocket donations from corporations, unions and individuals – including one who has donated $500,000 in the past 25 months – to fill his 2014 campaign account, a new report shows.
Research by the New York Public Interest Research Group shows that 79 percent of the money raised by Cuomo since he took office has come from entities and individuals who have given him $10,000 or more apiece. At least 142 corporations, unions or individuals have donated at least $40,000 apiece and seven contributed between $100,000 and $500,000.
The governor, who has recently started a push for taxpayer funding for campaigns and lower contribution limits, reported Tuesday that his campaign account has more than $22 million in it.
NYPIRG said just 1 percent of Cuomo’s donors were those giving $1,000 or less. One of the newest members of Cuomo’s big donor club is Buffalo’s Steve Pigeon, the former Erie County Democratic Party chairman; he gave Cuomo’s $50,000 last week, presumably at the governor’s latest fundraiser – on his birthday – in Manhattan.
The $500,000 in donations came from the holdings of Leonard Litwin, a Manhattan real estate mogul.
“It certainly shows he’s comfortable raising huge amounts of money under the current system and cries out for change in the system,” said Bill Mahoney, NYPIRG’s legislative operations and research coordinator. “There’s no reason one individual should be able to direct half a million dollars to a candidate in New York State.
The governor raised $4 million the past six months and, after expenses, boosted his campaign balance to $22.5 million. He has made changing the campaign finance system to reduce contribution levels one of his top priorities for the 2013 legislative session.
“His fund-raising numbers highlight some of the biggest problems in the system and serves as a good reminder for what needs to be fixed,” Mahoney said.
Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said, “Donations of any size from anyone play absolutely no role in the decisions and functioning of state government.”
Besides a variety of real estate interests, other top donors included metropolitan New York liquor and wine distributor Empire Merchants, at $122,000; Zuffa/Ultimate Fighting Productions at $105,000; and PepsiCo at $97,000.