Testimony in the trial of Joe Percoco and prominent developers has drawn back a curtain on how campaign money has been raised in New York and, specifically, for the campaign of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
"They've painted a picture of essentially the use of taxpayer dollars to leverage campaign contributions and enrich close associates of the governor," said NYPIRG Legislative Director Blair Horner. "So it's a sordid tale."
Testimony from star government witness Todd Howe, a longtime Albany consultant with deep ties to Cuomo, discussed strategies to receive more contributions from single donors through a web of limited liability companies.
"One contributor, one person, one entity can contribute a multiple in terms of campaign contributions," Horner said. "So they can funnel big bucks into the system through their limited liability companies."
Cuomo has called for an end to the practice, known as the LLC loophole. But his campaigns have also taken advantage of it. Both his 2010 and 2014 campaigns were led in large part by Percoco.
"If we want to look at tracking the money and how much goes to a small number of people to a tiny number of people, you don't have to look farther than the problems with the LLC loophole," said Sen. Liz Krueger (D - Manhattan).
The trial, too, has shown the intersection of policy, in this case economic development contracts, with hefty campaign donations -- a common thread for many corruption cases that forced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos from their leadership positions.
"People spend a lot of time talking about the problems with the culture in Albany and the fact that it is such a pay-to-play culture without strong enough standards," Krueger said.
Meanwhile, efforts to close the loophole have stalled in the Senate over the years.
"These members benefit directly from this loophole and they know they directly benefit from this loophole," said League of Women Voters Legislative Director Jennifer Wilson. "So why would they change the laws that benefit them year after year?"
Closing the loophole is one of several campaign finance reforms Cuomo has proposed this year.