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Push for campaign finance reform

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Push for campaign finance reform
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The Malcolm Smith scandal has given a boost to the campaign finance reform effort. Many say the case shows the importance of getting money out of politics and Governor Andrew Cuomo also weighed in on the issue. Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman has more.

ALBANY, N.Y. -- In the wake of the latest and one of the most sweeping corruption scandals to hit Albany in recent years, advocates for overhauling the state's campaign finance laws are renewing their efforts to change the system.

“This not the sign of a healthy democracy. We really need to take comprehensive steps to make sure this does not continue going forward and comprehensive campaign finance reform is a place we need to start this session,” NYPIRG Researcher Bill Mahoney said.

The good government group's multi-city push for a system of publicly financed campaigns, lower contribution limits and increased transparency was planned even before Senator Malcolm Smith and five others were arrested on federal bribery charges. And while his arrest has brought a new layer to the discussion, advocates admit the even if that system was in place, it's unlikely it would have prevented the alleged scheme for Smith to get onto the ballot for New York City mayor through bribery. After all, New York City already has a public donor system in place.

“There's nothing we can do to stop the fact that there's going to be corruption one way or another and that money is going to find its way into politics. What public financing of campaigns will do is change the fundamental culture of Albany to a small donor culture, where some donors have a voice and everyday New Yorkers have a voice and people run for office trying to represent their constituents,” said Karen Scharff, Executive Director of Citizen Action.

Governor Andrew Cuomo backs a campaign finance overhaul along with a public funding provision, but he acknowledged on Wednesday in Oswego that it's difficult to legislate morality.

Cuomo said, “Yes, people can still do corrupt, venal, illegal or unethical things and when that happens, you have to be as aggressive as possible in punishing it.”

Cuomo and lawmakers agreed in 2011 on new public ethics law that tightened outside income disclosure rules and created a new ethics watchdog. But since then, several other lawmakers have been accused or pleaded guilty to some form of corruption.

“We're doing everything we can do. If there's more we can do, we'll do that,” Cuomo said.

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