In the wake of the corruption convictions of two of the State Legislature’s top former leaders, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday he will push a new package of ethics in the coming legislative session.
But Cuomo said he believes that a top reform priority of good-government groups — closing the so-called LLC loophole — would be ineffective, even if passed by the legislature, because of a federal court ruling.
An element of state campaign finance law allows companies to exceed their $5,000 corporate limit by creating limited liability corporations. Through the LLCs, often with names that mask the parent company’s identity, corporations can contribute in total more than $100,000 to candidates and their political parties.
One of the companies that uses this loophole the most — the Manhattan real estate firm Glenwood Management — contributed to former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre). Silver and Skelos were convicted this month on corruption charges. The company and its founder were mentioned in each trial, although they were not accused of wrongdoing.
Glenwood is also one of Cuomo’s biggest donors, providing his campaign with more than $1 million. Cuomo said that he’s never been influenced by donors and that he’s unsure if any legislators were influenced.
The governor said Monday he won’t give back the money he’s received from LLCs.
“If I believed that I could be influenced by a million dollars, or a thousand dollars, or fifty dollars, then I’m in the wrong place and I should resign immediately,” Cuomo told WNYC.
Cuomo blamed the 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United for allowing independent groups to spend millions to influence voters as a form of free speech.
“Because of Citizens United, you’re not going to get the money out of the system until the federal government changes the court or the law or both,” Cuomo said. “This Citizens United case . . . has institutionalized big, anonymous money. . . . So you’re not going to do it that way.”
Good-government groups weren’t persuaded.
“Anonymous spending is not what Citizens United is about; it’s what New York State has permitted it to become,” said Susan Lerner of Common Cause. “The state has failed to avail itself of any number of reforms which would curtail the corrupting influence of money in politics.”
“We would prefer the governor be strong in his advocacy for reform, and not give nuanced or perhaps muted responses to these unbelievable scandals,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “The governor is the guy who makes it happen in Albany.”