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Cuomo proposes a crackdown on super PACs

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announcing his plan about super PACs at Fordham Univeristy Wednesday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing a crackdown on the coordination of candidates for office and super PACs that are created to support their campaigns.

The super PACs, or independent expenditures, are permitted under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Cuomo says while the ruling cannot be overturned right away without changes to the court, New York can act to make sure that super PACs really are independent. He says the groups have “become a mockery” and are used as a backdoor way around the state’s contribution limits.

“You have court decisions that have changed politics as we know it,” Cuomo said. “And literally have made the system all about money.”

Under the bill, the super PACs would have to disclose exactly who controls them, and reveal if anyone involved is a former staffer, or even family member, of the candidate. Major donors who give to both the candidate and a related super PAC would be scrutinized, as well as the sharing of office space or PR consultants.

Cuomo’s top counsel also issued a memo that clarifies what is allowed under existing state law, and urges regulators to abide by the legal opinion.

The proposals were praised by many reform groups, though they say much more needs to be done to curb state government’s rampant corruption. They also received a positive response from Republicans who rule the state Senate. Senate Leader John Flanagan says he’s open to talking about adding the ideas to a reform package, saying the super PACs “cannot be fronts for coordinated efforts of candidates.” Assembly Democrats say they’ve already passed similar measures, and support Cuomo’s efforts.

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.