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Irondequoit Post
  • Lobby for Cuomo keeps donors secret

  • A lobbying group that was created to support Gov. Andrew Cuomo and has refused to identify its donors for two years now reports no new contributions and may have suspended its activities after it became subject to regulations requiring that contributors be revealed.

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  • A lobbying group that was created to support Gov. Andrew Cuomo and has refused to identify its donors for two years now reports no new contributions and may have suspended its activities after it became subject to regulations requiring that contributors be revealed.
    The group, the Committee to Save New York, and other lobbyists were required in January for the first time to disclose their donors over the previous six months.
    The Committee to Save New York filed no donor report, in effect saying it received no donations since July, according to a response by the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics to a state Freedom of Information Law request from The Associated Press.
    Over the previous two years, the Committee to Save New York had raised millions of dollars to fund multimillion-dollar TV ad campaigns to promote Cuomo’s policies. Over the last six months, the group spent just $4,240, for an unspecified meeting on July 19, according to its semi-annual report filed in January.
    The “internet hosting expense” was paid to ASGK Public Strategies, a Chicago-based public relations firm founded by David Axelrod, who once worked in the Bill Clinton White House with Cuomo. Axelrod is no longer with the firm, which handles the ads run by the Committee to Save New York. Axelrod most recently was a top campaign adviser to President Barack Obama.
    The Committee to Save New York said it followed regulations.
    “We always complied with the rules, and we will continue to comply with the rules,” committee spokesman Michael McKeon said Thursday. “We don’t make them. We comply with them.”
    McKeon said the committee was exempt from disclosing donors because it didn’t spend $50,000 or more in lobbying during the period, a provision of the law.
    He wouldn’t comment on whether the lobbying group has ended its activities. He said it will announce its next move.
    Disclosure of donors to big lobbying groups was required by the ethics law pushed by Cuomo, a Democrat, and passed in 2011.
    But it was up to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, headed by former and current Cuomo appointees, to determine the point at which donors would have to be identified. On July 31, JCOPE decided not to make the requirement retroactive, instead requiring disclosure beginning in July 2012.
    Cuomo has confirmed he coordinates with the Committee to Save New York, whose TV advertising has enabled him to amass $22 million in his campaign account with little spending.
    The group’s ads provided Cuomo with campaign-like advertising blitzes through his first two years in office, helping to boost his historically high approval ratings. The ads practiced some political spin as well, including saying Cuomo balanced budgets without raising taxes. In December 2011, however, he and the Legislature raised $1.9 billion in income taxes on millionaires a year after he, as a candidate, promised he wouldn’t.
    Page 2 of 2 - One donor, the New York Gaming Association, has acknowledged that it contributed $2 million to the Committee to Save New York a year ago as Cuomo was pushing for more casino gambling statewide.
    Now the TV ads that the Committee to Save New York had funded after Cuomo proposed previous state budgets are being funded by the state Democratic Party, headed by Cuomo, and Cuomo’s campaign.
    The committee was created shortly after Cuomo’s election in 2010 and quickly raised more than $10 million to become Albany’s most well-financed lobbying group. Its officers include leaders of business groups in Manhattan.
    Cuomo had no comment.
     
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