Comptroller Rejects Pilot Campaign Financing

ALBANY (AP) -

Incumbent New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has rejected public campaign financing for his fall re-election bid, denouncing the pilot program introduced only at his office statewide as making him a “sacrificial lamb.”

Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature authorized a test of public financing in one statewide election this year — the race for comptroller. New York’s chief financial officer oversees the state’s $173 billion pension fund and a large staff of auditors.

“The pilot program for public financing of the comptroller election is a poor excuse to avoid the real reforms New Yorkers deserve,” DiNapoli said Monday in a statement. “I was always willing to have reform start with the comptroller’s office, but I will not be a convenient sacrificial lamb.”

DiNapoli has raised more than $2.1 million already from private donors. His campaign’s January report shows more than 30 donations that exceed the $6,000 limit by any contributor under the pilot program. He’d have to give some money back to qualify for the public matching funds.

There are no other declared candidates so far.

“We are discussing the race with more than one interested candidate and expect to have a full slate by the time of our convention” on May 14, state Republican Party spokesman David Laska said Monday. “We’re firmly against publicly funded campaigns,” he added.

The pilot program authorizes $6 to match each dollar of eligible contributions, up to the first $175 someone donates. Matching funds for candidates are limited to $4 million each for the primary and general elections. The program expires Dec. 31.

DiNapoli, a Democrat like Cuomo, said he was excluded from the recent last-minute budget negotiations that “cobbled together” the campaign law.

“We are surprised that the comptroller is opting out, as this was the comptroller’s bill to begin with,” Cuomo spokesman Matt Wing said Monday. “If he has specific concerns, we will modify the proposal, unless, of course, he just doesn’t want to do public financing.”

Several good-government groups lobbied for public financing for all state officials. However, Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause-New York, said Monday that DiNapoli made “the only rational and responsible choice” by refusing to participate now.

“The program is designed to provide political cover for Albany’s failure to enact real reform, and is so poorly conceived that it is doomed to fail,” she said.