SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Facing a challenging re-election year, Gov.Andrew Cuomo is fundraising this spring, holding an event Monday night at a golf course in Saratoga Springs, where donors gave $2,000 to play a round and have dinner with the governor.
"We have the highest limits of any state that has limits in the country and the governor uses that to his full advantage," said Blair Horner, NYPIRG Legislative Director.
Cuomo is a prolific fundraiser and has attracted major donors from industries like real estate, finance and entertainment. It's a strategy that's served him well since first winning his 2010 election to the office of governor.
"He doesn't want to get caught flat footed and going for a third term," Horner said. "Third terms are tough for any executive branch elected official and accumulating a huge war chest can give him an advantage.
It's a strategy that's in stark contrast to his Democratic primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, who is relying on small dollar donations. While that may highlight the support she's receiving on the left, it also makes it difficult to compete.
"It's much more efficient to get one individual to give you a $20,000 donation than it is to get 1,000 people give you $20 each," Horner said.
It creates a problem for candidates who would want to compete with a governor who has a $31 million war chest reported in January and only expected to grow.
"It's a huge problem," said Karen Scharff, Working Families Party Co-Chair. "We already know the governor has over $30 million, he's raising millions more, and almost all of that, all but something like 1 percent, is coming from the wealthiest donors in the state.
For activists on the left, it's a sign that the state needs a system of publicly financed campaigns to make elections more competitive.
"Without that kind of a campaign finance system where you can run on small donations, we're going to have non-competitive races," Scharff said.
Cuomo has backed a public finance system as well as the closure of the LLC loophole, but both measures have stalled in the state Senate.