Onondaga County Comptroller Robert Antonacci said he will opt into a new public campaign financing system for state comptroller, saying it will help level the playing field with big-money donors.
It’s exactly the argument that proponents of a statewide public financing system have clamored for — but this time it’s coming from Antonacci, who is a Republican. Republicans have opposed public financing, but they acquiesced in the state budget to start a pilot program with the comptroller’s office.
“There’s nobody in my immediate family who has the ability to finance a statewide campaign, and I think that the reform of not being beholden to special interests will work in my campaign,” Antonacci said in an interview with Gannett’s Albany Bureau. “The only people we are going to be beholden to are the taxpayers.”
Democratic Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has advocated for a public-financing system, but he and advocates have opposed the current law, saying it doesn’t give him enough time to prepare, has a number of flaws and would require him to relinquish about 70 percent of the $2 million in his coffers.
Antonacci said that if can raise $200,000 in small donations, he would eligible for $1.2 million in public-matching funds — then up to a total of $4 million for the race.
“I think where the Republican Party has soured on campaign-finance reform is that it’s been wrought with fraud,” he said. “And I think there can’t be a better candidate to be the test case then a CPA/attorney who has two licenses to lose if I screw this thing up.”
Antonacci held back criticizing DiNapoli for not entering the program. The GOP convention is next week in Westchester.
“We’ll get to that. I promise there will be a little something at the convention addressing that issue,” he said.