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Filing: Cuomo has $33 million warchest from small donor base

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Albany/HV: Filing: Cuomo has $33 million warchest from small donor base
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- While Gov. Andrew Cuomo put a priority on campaign finance reform in his 2014 state budget plan, he also has taken advantage of the rules as they currently are as he raises money for his re-election bid.

Last month, Cuomo's campaign filing showed he has raised a $33 million -- more than any other candidate for governor in the country.

But unlike grassroots politicians within the Democratic party like Barack Obama and before him Howard Dean, Cuomo's money comes from a small number of donors.

"This election cycle he has raised over 80% of his money from contributors who have given him $10,000 or more," said Bill Mahoney, of New York Public Interest Research Group, a good-government organization.

According to the the last filing, of the $33 million Cuomo has raised, nearly half of the money comes from individuals who gave $40,000 or more. In contrast, Cuomo took less than 1 percent of his haul from those contributing less than a $1,000.

"He's a product of the old culture. He's not showing by his actions that he really wants to change Albany. The only way to substantively do that is to embrace small donor financing which has worked in New York City," said Bill Samuels, who founded the good-government group EffectiveNY.

Cuomo's largest donor was real estate developer Leonard Litwin, who was able to bypass state contribution limits by donating $800,000 through various limited liability corporations.

"Governor Cuomo is especially skilled at exploiting loopholes in the law like the LLC loophole. In theory, according to campaign finance law, an individual is only allowed to give $60,800 to a candidate for Governor," Mahoney said.

In his budget message last month, Cuomo announced that publicly financed campaigns would be part of his budget, which is due April 1.

"It's inarguable that the amount of money in politics has created a number of difficult issues," Cuomo said in his speech.

Good government groups sent Cuomo a letter urging him to keep campaign finance reform in the budget. There had been speculation it would be taken out because Republicans in the New York state Senate are opposed to public financing.

Cuomo is potentially facing a challenge from the left if the Working Families Party decides not to endorse him and run its own candidate.

"If he does not keep small donor in the budget, I think not only might he have a challenger in New York, but more importantly I think his credentials as a progressive across the country are fatally tarnished," Samuels said.

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