Citizens United Isn’t Blocking Reforms

The good-government group Common Cause vehemently disagreed with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s assertion on Monday in a radio interview that the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case made it impossible for major campaign-finance law changes.

“You need people in office who are going to use their best judgment in office,” Cuomo said on WNYC this morning, “because you’re not going to change the campaign finance system because of Citizens United.”

It’s argument Cuomo has made before, often in the context of creating a statewide public financing system for elections.

Common Cause Executive Director Susan Lerner, however, said the decision in the case shouldn’t hinder campaign-law changes.

“Anonymous spending is not what Citizens United is about; it’s what New York State has permitted it to become,” Lerner said. “The state is not powerless to act and I am disappointed that the Governor would suggest otherwise. Quite simply, the state has failed to avail itself of any number of reforms which would curtail the corrupting influence of money in politics.”

Common Cause pointed to a list of measures the state can adopt to enhance transparency when it comes to campaign finance, including requiring the full disclosure of donors to independent expenditure groups, have donors identify their occupation and employer, require the disclosure of campaign “bundlers” and maintain a “doing business” database at the state level that’s tied to campaign donations.

Meanwhile, Common Cause reiterated a 2013 report that found even candidates who do not enjoy support from independent expenditures can compete and win when participating in a system of publicly financed elections.