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Campaign finance reform being talked about again

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Albany/HV: Campaign finance reform being talked about again
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Campaign financing has been a hot button issue in Albany for some time. While some groups are calling for a complete overhaul of the system, others are just asking for more disclosure. Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman has more.

ALBANY, N.Y. -- As untold millions of dollars flood the airwaves from independent groups seeking to influence public policy, elected officials say disclosure of how those groups spend and raise money is needed more than ever.

“I think disclosure is really the first essential. We're in a free society and certainly political expression is very, very important, but I think there always seems to be a concern when money is funneled in ways where you don't know where the money originated from,” said New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

The 2010 Supreme Court ruling known as Citizens United loosened campaign finance regulations, so Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is getting creative. He filed a shareholders lawsuit against telecom giant Qualcomm in order to determine how much money the corporation is spending on political activities.

DiNapoli said, “Certainly we've seen in the wake of Citizens United even more corporate money being spent in the political arena and it certainly raises the question, how is the spending raising the bottom line of the company?”

And it's not just DiNapoli. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says he's pushing for a crackdown on non-profit groups that engage in political spending but don't make those records public. And Governor Andrew Cuomo says he took push for disclosure of political spending by outside groups in his State of the State Address on Wednesday.

“I've been working on disclosure proposals for months literally and we'll have one in the State of the State,” Cuomo said.

Now, politically it may be easier to pass new disclosure requirements in the Senate than a system of public financing, which Republican lawmakers say they oppose. And any new set of disclosure laws could simply tighten loopholes in existing campaign finance rules.

“Just expanding what needs to be disclosed is a very simple matter. Right now you only have to disclose if you specifically say voters should elect somebody or endorse somebody. But if you were to broaden that a little bit to just say you were talking about candidates before an election, you would capture a lot of that money,” said Bill Mahoney of NYPIRG.

New York's campaign contribution limits for state and local campaigns is far higher than the $2,500 federal limit. A NYPIRG analysis found that most donors in the last election cycle came from contributions of $2,500 and more.

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