With little movement on state ethics laws, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a late push in the legislative session on Wednesday to tighten restrictions on election laws governing money given to candidates through so-called independent expenditure committees. In particular, the governor will suggest clarifying criteria — via a legal opinion and legislation to be introduced — for determining if a candidate is improperly coordinating with a committee, including whether the candidate and committee have overlapping donor bases, past staff members in common or the same consultants. Shared office space or information would also be considered evidence of improper coordination under the governor’s plan, outlined in a speech given on Wednesday at Fordham Law School, as would similarities in campaign material produced by a candidate and a committee.
The plan — laid out in an opinion from his counsel, Alphonso David — would also set up a so-called safe harbor provision for independent committees to list their donors and other information so as to avoid the appearance of conflict between the committees and candidates. If made into law, such violations would be felonies, according to the governor’s office.
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, framed his remarks as an attack on Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that profoundly loosened limits on political contributions, saying that the decision created a “fiction” that independent expenditure committees “would actually, truly act independently” and mocking a campaign finance system in which “nobody knows who anybody is.”