In today’s Gannett newspapers, Albany Bureau Chief Joseph Spector has a look at the current lack of votes in the state Senate for setting up a system of matching small political donations with public funds.
Sen. Eric Adams’ (pictured) recent election as Brooklyn borough president means the Democrat will be leaving the Senate, knocking the number of “yes” votes for public campaign financing down to 30—two short of passage.
Other potential stumbling blocks come with Sens. Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, and John Sampson, D-Brooklyn, whose future in the chamber will likely hinge on the courts. Both were indicted in the past year, with Smith accused of trying to bribe his way onto the Republican line in the New York City mayoral race and Sampson facing charges he embezzled $440,000.
Both Sampson and Smith were former Senate Democratic leaders.
Cuomo’s Moreland Commission, which was directed to investigate corruption in Albany, recommended the state enact a campaign-finance system similar to New York City’s, in which campaign donations of under $175 are matched at a 6-to-1 rate with the intention of emphasizing small, individual donors.
So far, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he has no immediate plans to call a special election for Adams’ seat, which the senator will vacate at the end of the year.
Sen. George Latimer, D-Rye, said the issue may be decided at the ballot box.
“I don’t know if the governor is of the mind to hold (special elections). It’s his call,” Latimer said in a phone interview. “So we may not even have that many (31) votes for it. It could well be that the electoral process in 2014 will be an opportunity for the voters to consider, amongst many other issues, whether or not we need a wholesale reform of Albany and what a wholesale reform looks like.”