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Astorino favors term limits but not public campaign finance

Ellen Abbott
WRVO file photo
Rob Astorino attends an event in Syracuse. (file photo)

The GOP candidate for governor, Rob Astorino, tied the issue of lengthy terms in office to the controversy over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission, using it as an example of corruption that can happen after lawmakers spend decades in office. The Moreland Commission, which was investigating potential wrongdoing in the legislature, was closed down as part of a budget agreement in late March.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is now investigating some of the actions of the governor’s commission. Among other things, he may be looking for possible steering of probes away from anything connected to Cuomo. Federal investigators have asked the Senate and Assembly not to destroy any documents related to the Moreland Commission.

Cuomo’s office has not confirmed whether the executive branch has also been asked to preserve documents. Astorino seized on the matter as a campaign issue. He says Cuomo needs to answer questions directly.

“On what it is he knew, what role he and or his staff had in this commission, whether or not they did direct subpoenas to be quashed,” Astorino said.

Cuomo portrays the federal requests so far as an amicable relationship of cooperation between his office and the U.S. attorney. The governor spoke most recently in New York City on Tuesday.

“The commission is disbanded, but it still has work to do. It’s in the process of referring cases to other offices and following up on all those referrals,” Cuomo said. “So I think it’s fine.”   

Astorino remains opposed to another reform measure now being discussed by Cuomo and Republicans in the Senate -- public financing of campaigns. He urged GOP senators to say no.

“All this does is take hard-earned tax dollars that have been siphoned away from education aid, and can be used to lower taxes, and gives it to politicians so they can do robocalls and go out to dinners,” Astorino said. “I don’t think that’s the right use, given where we are in this state.”

One of the candidates on the GOP statewide ticket, comptroller candidate Bob Antonacci, is participating in public financing for his campaign under a pilot program approved in the state budget and limited to that race only. Astorino says he does not see that as a contradiction.

Senate Republicans are also being pressured by the state’s Conservative Party not to agree to a broader public campaign financing plan.

Meanwhile, Cuomo is taking heat from the left-leaning Working Families Party to convince senators to sign on to a matching small donor proposal. There’s been no agreement yet, and it’s increasing unlikely that a pact will be reached before the two minor party conventions are held on May 31.

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.