Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos again spoke out against a public campaign-finance system on Tuesday, telling reporters that it wouldn’t stop the “crooks and idiots” who break the law.
Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver spoke to reporters following a news conference touting scholarships available for camp-going youths whose families were displaced by Superstorm Sandy.
The two disagree on the issue of public campaign finance. Silver has long sponsored a bill that would match small donations to political campaigns with public funds in hopes of emphasizing small donors, while Skelos remains vehemently opposed, arguing it’s an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars.
Skelos pointed to Sen. Malcolm Smith, a Queens Democrat who was arraigned today on charges of trying to bribe his way into the New York City mayor’s race. (He pleaded not guilty.)
“There’s not a piece of legislation that would have stopped Malcolm Smith, those individuals down in the city. Remember, this involved the mayor’s race in New York City where there’s campaign finance,” Skelos said. “Public financing of elections would not have stopped any one of those crooks and idiots from doing what they did.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo turned up the heat on the Senate on Tuesday, calling on the chamber to put the issue to a vote.
“I want public financing,” Cuomo said on “The Capitol Pressroom,” a public radio program. “I want a vote and I want it passed.”
He defended himself against critics who say he should put his own proposal in bill form, saying people who argue the “devil is in the details” sometimes use it as an excuse not to take a position. While Cuomo has said he supports public campaign financing similar to the New York City system, he hasn’t put out legislation that would do so.
Skelos, meanwhile, said the recent arrests in the Legislature are taking a toll on its reputation.
“You know what the message is? It’s our government is functioning despite the fact that there are a few crooks and idiots that unfortunately ruin our reputation,” Skelos said. “We work with each other, we talk with each other, we try to understand each other. We’ve had a really good three years.”
(AP Photo / Mike Groll)