The things you can do while ‘campaigning’

things-you-can-do-while-campaigning
Briefing: Cuomo. (Cuomo's office via flickr)
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The Daily News reports that Malcolm Smith, the new chair of a breakaway caucus of independent Democrats in the State Senate, is spending an awful lot of campaign money on things that don't obviously relate to any campaign.

Smith "spent more than $100,000 in campaign funds last year on lodging, airfare, meals, car payments and other travel- and entertainment-related expenses."

He also "ran unopposed for reelection in 2012."

A spokesman for Smith said the lawmaker was paying for legitimate travel and lodging on trips, and saving taxpayers money.

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"He doesn’t want to bill the taxpayers of New York for expenses when they are campaign-related," said spokesman, Todd Shapiro.

It's all legal, which is the issue. New York State has especially lax rules governing not only how money comes into lawmakers' campaign coffers, but how those lawmakers can spend it. Almost anything may be said to be "campaign-related," technically, as long as the law doesn't specify that it isn't.

Governor Andrew Cuomo campaigned in 2010 on the promise of lowering contribution limits (though he never specified how low) and tightening regulation of the expenditure of campaign funds. (Country club memberships, for example, would be a prohibited use.)

But such fixes would alter governor's relationship with the lawmakers whose support he needs in order to pass other parts of his agenda, and, like all process issues, they score relatively low on voters' list of priorities.

Which probably means that, promises notwithstanding, they score low on Cuomo's list of priorities, too.

Quote

"It’s a legal form of blackmail" — unnamed Council member

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