News Column

Pro-Cuomo Lobbying Group Disbands

Sept. 3, 2013
Cuomo

The Committee to Save New York, a lobbying organization set up just after Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2010 election to push his agenda, is calling it quits.

The organization filed papers detailing its dissolution with the Secretary of State's office just after the end of the legislative session in June, according to its spokesman, Michael McKeon. The action was reported Friday by the Daily News.

A deep-pocketed coalition of real estate magnates, business groups and a private sector labor federation, CSNY raised some $17 million over its two and a half years and spent $15 million; the remaining $2 million will be returned to donors.

The group was the state's top-spending lobbying entity in 2011 (when it expended $11.9 million) and 2012 ($4.2 million), according to disclosure data.

McKeon said the demise of the group had nothing to do with its members' possible reluctance to have new contributions made public under the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics' source of funding disclosure requirements. Because the group was organized as an advocacy group, it was not previously required to disclose its donors.

"We would have happily complied with that, had we continued our fundraising," he said.

CSNY's efforts helped Cuomo but earned the ire of some progressives, whose attitude toward CSNY might be summed up in the subtitle of a June 2012 report from the left-leaning Public Accountability Initiative: "How a small group of big business interests and billionaires are hijacking New York State's public policy agenda on behalf of the 1 percent."

In June 2012, Cuomo and CSNY defended themselves from criticism after The New York Times disclosed that the group had received $2 million from gambling interests as the governor was developing his casino expansion plan.

The primary reason behind CSNY's breakup, McKeon said, was the best one the group could have asked for: "We believe that our mission was largely successful."

He ticked off policy accomplishments of the past three legislative sessions, including marginally lower tax rates for most New Yorkers, greater controls on state spending and establishing a less-costly Tier VI pension package.

The group, he said, also wanted to "neutralize the impact of special-interest money" -- a reference to the sort of predominantly labor-driven spending that dominated prior to CSNY's establishment.

"We believe Albany is functioning again," McKeon said.

The timing of the breakup allows the group to fade away well in advance of the 2014 election cycle.

"We made clear from the beginning that we never intended to participate in electoral politics," McKeon said.



Source: (c)2013 Times Union (Albany, N.Y.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.