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A pre-session push for campaign finance reform


Ted O'Brien. - FILE PHOTO

Ted O'Brien isn't seated in the State Senate yet, but he's already joining fellow Democrats calling for campaign finance reform. Specifically, he's backing Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposal, which is essentially a conceptual plan that includes public financing of campaigns.

Last month, O'Brien defeated Republican Sean Hanna for an open seat in the Senate. The contest was one of the most expensive state races this year: combined, the candidates spent approximately $1.5 million. And the Democratic and Republican Senate campaign committees spent another $1.4 million, approximately, on the race.

Earlier this week, O'Brien appeared alongside State Senator Tim Kennedy in Buffalo. They called for stronger disclosure requirements and backed Cuomo's idea of matching public funds for candidates.

But while Cuomo and many Assembly and Senate Democrats want significant campaign finance reform, they're worried that the Senate's new governing coalition may stand in the way. The five-member Independent Democratic Conference and Senate Republicans have an agreement to share leadership duties in the Senate.

Recent remarks by IDC leader Jeff Klein and GOP conference leader Dean Skelos have been, at best, lukewarm toward campaign finance reform. And some Republican senators oppose public financing of campaigns.

On an Albany talk radio program, Cuomo warned Skelos that if he stands in the way of his agenda, which also includes passing a minimum-wage increase, he'll oppose him -- though it's unclear what the governor meant. Cuomo also said he'd get involved in the issue of the Senate's leadership, which he's so far refrained from doing.