by Jeremy Moule
A new New York Public Interest Research Group report says that New York legislators representing the Rochester region relied heavily on campaign donations from lobbying and special interest groups in 2012.
The report says that the 18 legislators representing counties in the Rochester region brought in $2.1 million from lobbying firms and their clients, business groups, trade associations, union political action committees, and nonprofits. The analysis includes districts in Monroe, Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, Livingston, Ontario, and Wayne counties, according to a NYPIRG press release.
That's not to say that legislators are doing anything illegal or unethical. And in its report, NYPIRG says it's not implying "a cause and effect relationship between campaign donations and legislative or other government action." In fact, the area's legislators are honest and ethical, said NYPIRG research coordinator at a press conference this morning in front of Rochester City Hall.
But the contributions do help donors gain access to elected officials, whether at fund raisers or through one-on-one meetings, Mahoney says. And that means legislators may get to hear an interest's side of an issue but not an average constituent's opinion.
Industry and interest groups also tend to contribute heavily to the chairs of legislative committees dealing with legislation that affects them.
Mahoney also said that candidates who aren't willing to take large contributions from lobbying or interest groups are at a competitive disadvantage. NYPIRG and other good government groups have been pushing state legislators to adopt a public campaign finance system. They see a system involving publicly funded matching contributions for candidates who collect small donations as a way to counter the influence of large donors.