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Senate GOP hearings will examine NYC's public campaign financing system

Republicans in the New York State Senate plan to hold hearings Tuesday, May 7, on what they say are abuses in New York City’s public campaign finance system. 

The Senate GOP is against a proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other Democrats to expand public campaign financing to statewide races. Republicans will hold a hearing that they say will examine “the abuses within New York City's taxpayer funded political campaign system and the implications for state taxpayers if the system were to be expanded statewide.”

GOP Leader Dean Skelos says the public doesn’t want to pay for the political campaigns, which he says would only plague New Yorkers with more “robocalls.” He says he’d rather see the money used to restore cuts to the developmentally disabled in the state budget, or increase aid to schools.

“I think that money could be better spent,” Skelos said. Skelos believes public campaign financing could cost $200 million a year. Supporters say the cost is closer to $25 - 50 million.

Meanwhile, a group of independent Democrats who run the Senate along with the GOP, are holding their own series of hearings. They are promoting the public financing of campaigns.  The two factions will need to ultimately decide whether a bill to publicly fund state political races goes forward, or not.

In a statement Friday afternoon, Skelos offered a preview of what the hearings might include. In response to the conviction of an aide to New York City Comptroller John Liu on fraud charges related to campaign donations, Skelos said it’s “the latest example of abuse in the city’s public matching fund system.”

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.