The state Conservative Party would likely strip its endorsement of Senate Republican candidates this fall if they go along with Democrats’ plan for public financing of campaigns.
Conservative Party chairman Mike Long said today that he has increasingly warned Republicans to not back Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s efforts to get a broad public-financing system that would appease Cuomo’s liberal critics.
“If they come back to do any kind of public financing for legislative or statewide offices, I consider it not only a theft of services and taxes out of people’s pockets, I consider it a political payoff to the Working Families Party,” Long told Gannett’s Albany Bureau. “This is Andrew Cuomo living up to his promise to the Working Families Party.”
Cuomo has been quietly working behind the scenes to get Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos to back a public financing system, and he has reportedly threatened to work to oust the Senate GOP from power if they don’t. Republicans have a tenuous hold on the Senate because they share power with the five-member Independent Democratic Conference.
The jockeying comes as Cuomo is seeking the Working Families Party endorsement at its convention this weekend. A deal on public financing would likely cinch the nomination.
But Senate Republicans would face trouble if they mess with the small, but influential Conservative Party. And a Skelos deal with Cuomo appears hung up in part because of Long’s line in the sand.
Three of the four Senate Republicans who supported same-sex marriage in 2011 lost the following year, in part because the Conservative Party pulled its support.
Public financing would be “a bold payoff to the Working Families Party if in the fact the Legislature goes along with Andrew Cuomo,” Long (left with Sen. Greg Ball) said.
He added that Cuomo “lied about the Independence Party endorsement; he didn’t tell the truth to the press or the public. Now he’s trying to put together a deal to make the Working Families Party happy with him, and that’s what I call a political payoff.”
Skelos has talked about using unclaimed funds from the Comptroller Office to pay for public financing — so it can’t be deemed taxpayer money, or through check offs on income taxes. Unclaimed funds is already being used to fund a public financing pilot program this year for the comptroller’s seat.
But Long said that any of it would taxpayer money in his mind.
And if opposing it means Skelos loses the majority, so be it, Long said.
“If I’m Senator Skelos, I’m going to say, “Governor, go do what you got to do. I’m going to be a conservative Republican and do what’s right for the taxpayers of the state of New York,” Long said.