Cuomo Defends Ties to Ally Backed by Gambling Group
By THOMAS KAPLAN NYTimes June 11, 2012
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo defended on Sunday his ties to a private lobbying group that received $2 million from the gambling industry last December as he was developing a plan to expand casino gambling in New York State.
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Mr. Cuomo, in his first public comments since The New York Times reported the donations last week, said that he did not believe it was his place to call on the group to release its donor list voluntarily.
The group, the Committee to Save New York, has spent millions on television advertising in support of Mr. Cuomo’s legislative agenda, and some government watchdog groups have questioned whether the gambling industry’s support for the group influenced him as he drew up his proposal to expand casino gambling.
“I understand the point, and I understand the general idea that there’s too much money in the political system,” Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said in a brief question-and-answer session with reporters at the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in Manhattan.
“I understand that,” he added. “But I’ve worked with groups that represent the biggest companies in this state, the biggest labor unions in this state, distinguished citizens in this state, to create jobs, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Under state law, the
Committee to Save New York, which was founded at Mr. Cuomo’s urging shortly before he took office, is not yet required to disclose its donor list, and it has declined to do so. Asked whether the group should voluntarily disclose where its money comes from, Mr. Cuomo responded by noting that an overhaul of the state ethics law for which he won passage last year will require the disclosure of donors in the future. (The state ethics commission is developing the disclosure rules; it is not clear when they will take effect.)
“As governor, I think my position is to tell people to abide by the law, and that’s what I do,” Mr. Cuomo said. “If people, groups, individuals want to go further than the law, they can go further than the law. But as governor, my responsibility is to make sure people follow the law.”
The Committee to Save New York raised $17 million and spent $12 million last year, making it the biggest spender on lobbying in Albany.
The Times reported last week that Genting, a Malaysian gambling company that had worked with Mr. Cuomo on a plan to build a convention center and casino at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, gave $400,000 to the group in 2011, and that the New York Gaming Association, a trade group founded by Genting and other companies, donated the $2 million in December.