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Politics and Government

Newly elected lawmakers slam Cuomo for pricey fundraiser

Karen DeWitt

Two freshman state senators and one recently elected Assemblywoman say they are incensed by a New York Times article documenting a recent fundraiser held by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that charged up to $25,000 per person.

Cuomo says he’s for a public campaign finance system, but Sen. Alessandra Biaggi says the governor is disingenuous to hold a major fundraiser just before the budget is due.

“It’s hypocritical,” Biaggi said. “It’s impossible to say that a $25,000 ticket is not influencing the decisions at arguably the most important time of our entire legislative session.”

Biaggi, who was joined by Sen. Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, stopped short of saying that Cuomo engaged in pay-to-play, which is illegal.

But they say public campaign financing needs to be part of the state budget.  And they say there needs to be a ban on holding fundraisers during budget season.

Niou -- who holds the seat held by former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was convicted of corruption in a scheme that partly involved campaign contributions -- says opponents of public campaign finance might actually fear more diversity in the Legislature.

“People are afraid of people that look like us,” said Niou, who is Chinese-American. “They’re afraid of more women running, single moms, they’re worried about people of color.”

Cuomo has said he does not see a need to discontinue raising campaign money until the rules are changed. And he’s said the donations don’t influence his policies.

In response, a senior adviser to Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi, harshly criticized the lawmakers.

"These hypocrites should practice what they preach and take a look in the mirror. They and their colleagues hold fundraisers daily,  a hop, skip and jump from the Capitol," Azzopardi said in a statement. 

Ramos says she held a fundraiser recently, and says she gave back a check to a participant who did not share her beliefs.  Her account is also documented in the Times series.

The other two say they have not held any fundraisers.