With campaign finance reform and the creation of a public financing system for elections in the wind at the moment in the budget negotiations, NYPIRG’s data maestro Bill Mahoney joined other good-government advocates to release a report on the state’s top political donors and the political entities that find a home for their money.
The key finding of the analysis is, once again, the small number of donors who do most of the giving: NYPIRG found that just 170 contributors gave sums of $50,000 or more (lots more, in some cases) to state-level candidates and party committees in 2013, a total of $28.2 million, or just more than half (51 percent) of all money donated to those entities by New Yorkers.
The top 10 donors and who they gave to most generously:
- James and Marilyn Simons: $1.2 million, including $1 million to the State Democratic Committee’s housekeeping account
- Leonard Litwin: $1 million, including $375,000 to Andrew Cuomo 2014
- George Soros: $760,000, all but $10,000 of which went to the State Democratic Committee’s housekeeping account
- SEIU 1199: $733,500, including $190,200 to the Working Families Party
- NYSUT: $717,343, including $102,300 apiece to the Democratic campaign committees for the Senate and Assembly
- GNYHA: $686,389, including $201,689 to the state Democratic Committee housekeeping account
- Trial Lawyers Association: $578,710, including $102,300 apiece to the Democratic campaign committees for the Senate and Assembly
- Time Warner: $558,913, including $175,000 to the state Democratic Committee
- Empire Dental: $453,250, including $100,000 apiece to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee and the Senate Republican Campaign Committee
- Brookfield Financial and holdings: $427,250, including $350,000 to the state Democratic Committee’s housekeeping account
The top two recipients of political giving was Gov. Andrew Cuomo, both through the top-ranked state Democratic Committee ($6 million) and Cuomo’s own campaign committee ($5.2 million). The rest of the top 10:
- Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee ($1.6 million)
- Senate Republican Campaign Committee ($1.5 million)
- Schneiderman 2014 ($1.3 million)
- Democratic Senate Campaign Committee ($1 million)
- Senate Republican Campaign Committee housekeeping account ($1 million)
- Republican State Committee housekeeping account ($791,700)
- Working Families Party ($754,892)
- Dinapoli 2014 ($718,969)
“This is really now a moment of truth,” said Karen Scharff of Citizen Action at a Tuesday-morning press conference where the report was handed out.
She conjured up the images of leaders emerging from budget negotiations to attend fundraisers where those with interests in the final package write out fat checks to its authors.
“Is the governor going to side with the fat-cat contributors and the corrupt status quo,” Scharff asked, “or is he going to insist that we have a final budget that finally, once and for all, reforms Albany and includes a public financing of elections system and comprehensive campaign finance reform?”
A public finance system is favored by three of the four men in the room for closed-door budget negotiations, Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos being the lone exception. Skelos emerged from this morning’s gathering on the second floor to say that campaign finance reform was still among the topics being discussed by legislative leaders.
Here’s NYPIRG’s report: