Watchdog: Follow the Money

Advocates criticizing New York public finance proposal

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ALBANY, N.Y. — Good-government advocates are criticizing Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York's legislative leaders for a budget agreement to test public campaign financing with the state comptroller race this year.

Six good-government groups released a statement Sunday that called the proposal flawed and urged Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and any potential opponent to refuse to participate.

The nearly $140 billion state budget would authorize matching public funds of $6 for each dollar of eligible contributions with limits of $4 million each for the primary and general election.

DiNapoli also protested Sunday that he was excluded from the negotiations between Cuomo and the legislative leaders, and said he had doubts about the plan.

"There are also questions on whether this proposal can be fairly and reasonably implemented in such a short time frame," said DiNapoli, a Democrat like Cuomo.

He had previously proposed to use the comptroller campaign as a trial run for a publicly financed campaign and in 2011 the Assembly passed a bill authorizing that experiment, but it didn't make it into law.

Unlike DiNapoli's original proposal, the budget plan relies on the Board of Elections to administer the matching fund program.

"Given the board's track record and the fact that there are only five months until the state's primary elections, it is extremely doubtful that an adequate system can be implemented in time to provide a true representation of a public funding system," the joint statement from the government watchdogs said.

The groups have criticized the influence of big contributors in state politics and are seeking public financing for all statewide and legislative races.

The Legislature is expected to vote Monday on the budget bills.

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