New Report Exposes Corporate Elites Behind Cuomo "Secret Slush Fund"
Committee to Save New York Backers Funding Cuomo Public Relations Campaign Benefit from Favorable Policies Worth Billions
ALBANY, NY (06/18/2012)(readMedia)-- A report released today shows that the powerful forces behind a big business lobbying group reap billions from policies that have been continued, implemented, or proposed during the Cuomo administration.
The report, "The Committee to Save New York's 1%," examines the key forces behind the Committee to Save New York, a coalition of big business interests closely aligned with Governor Cuomo, which has spent historic sums on a public relations effort designed to push the Cuomo agenda. The report was authored by the Public Accountability Initiative, a Buffalo-based non-profit research organization focused on corporate and government accountability and released in partnership with New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, Community Voices Heard and VOCAL-NY.
"This report should be an eye-opener for New York State residents whose pensions and public services are slashed, even as the Committee's backers continue to rake in billions in government assistance," said Kevin Connor, co-director of the Public Accountability Initiative. "Instead of funding retirees and school children, this public money is turning millionaires into billionaires. Through the Committee, their grip on the public spigot is tightening."
The report examines how the potential policy payoffs for Committee backers go far beyond casino gambling legalization, pushed by gambling interests which were recently revealed to have given heavily to the Committee. Committee backers, including the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) and the Partnership for New York City, benefit from a range of policies continued, implemented, or proposed by the Cuomo administration, including low corporate tax rates, subsidies, pension reform, and real estate development plans.
• Corporate income taxes avoided: $16 billion. Committee backers avoided $16 billion in corporate state income taxes between 2008 and 2010 from state tax loopholes which Cuomo has kept open.
• Special subsidies: $1.5-2 billion. Committee backers have received over $1 billion in economic development subsidies from an out-of-control and unaccountable system which the Cuomo administration has declined to reform.
• Private-sector profits from public-sector pension modifications: billions in potential fees. The pension "reforms" proposed by the Cuomo administration and supported by the Committee would have increased fees earned by Wall Street firms behind the Committee from 200% to over 1000%.
• Real estate development: hundreds of millions in potential profit. The Cuomo plan to demolish the Javits Convention Center after hundreds of millions in renovations has long been supported by key Committee backers who want to develop the land it would open up.
The report also notes that the Governor has been adamantly denying any coordination with the Committee until very recently.
"Its no accident that Governor Cuomo has flip flopped on whether his administration is coordinating with the Committee to Save New York," said Bobby Tolbert, Board member and leader for VOCAL-NY. "He knows that by doing so, it confirms the worst suspicions about who's behind his agenda and throws into question how serious he is about cleaning up Albany and putting people first."
Community Voices Heard Board Co-Chair Agnes Rivera stated that, "The governor's actions have not been transparent. We asked for an investigation last year into his relationship with the Committee to Save NY and he said he wasn't coordinating with the committee. Now that turns out not to be true and I question his word now. It was clearly formed for his own purposes, for his own campaign. Cuomo has been fundraising for reelection since right after he took office -- including a fundraiser in January 2011 at the Top of the Rock in NYC. We need him to be fighting for things like Transitional Jobs and minimum wage, not for the state's millionaires and not for his own reelection."
The report also details how the Committee's backers have worked hard to disguise their role, refusing to release donor lists and putting forward a sham figurehead board. The Committee's actual board, only recently disclosed, consists of three representatives of the real estate billionaires and bankers at REBNY and the Partnership.
The report notes that one of these board members, Rob Speyer of Tishman Speyer, gave the maximum contribution to the Cuomo campaign during the 2010 cycle, $55,900, before incorporating what the New York Times has called the Governor's "secret slush fund" and pledging $1 million to the effort.
The report also outlines the close links between additional Cuomo campaign contributors and backers of the Committee to Save New York. The top ten Committee-linked donors have given about a million dollars to Cuomo in campaign contributions. And dozens of Committee-linked donors "maxed out" to the Cuomo campaign with $50,000 contributions – subsequent donations to the Committee to Save New York may well violate campaign finance laws.
The Committee to Save New York has been promoting the Governor's anti-tax, pro-austerity agenda that is destroying our public services and decimating school districts, said Ron Deutsch, Executive Director of New Yorker for Fiscal Fairness. Its time the public realized that the Committee to Save New York is nothing more than the Governor's public relations machine designed elevate his poll numbers and to put the interests of giant businesses above the average citizen.
Ryan Lennon of Occupy Albany stated that, "The Cuomo administration's pay to play philosophy is a paradigmatic example of what is wrong with our political system. Special interests within the gaming industry can afford to funnel $2 million to the Committee to Save New York to secure the Governor's enthusiastic support. The working poor of New York cannot - so the Governor sits on the fence and refuses to fight for an increase in the minimum wage. It's outrageous. It is a microcosm of why we occupy."
The full report is available at http://public-accountability.org