Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose campaign finance filing this week revealed a mammoth total of $34.5 million over the course of the cycle, simply doesn’t think it’s a big deal that many of his donations come from contributors who have given $40,000 or more.
Some critics have suggested the emphasis on big donors doesn’t comport with Mr. Cuomo’s stated commitment to reforming the campaign finance system, but the governor directly dismissed such concerns today.
“I think a lot of this conversation is baloney, frankly,” he said, speaking this morning on The Capitol Pressroom radio show with Susan Arbetter. “What people want to know, what they say to me is, ‘Look, we want to know that you’re working for us, you’re not working for anyone else.’ And that is a question of character more than anything else.”
“Because some politicians out there can be bought for $10. And some politicians can’t be bought for $10 billion. It’s a question of the person. It’s a question of character. It’s a question of values,” he continued.
Mr. Cuomo currently doesn’t face any significant opponents in his re-election bid this year. But, he stressed, he needs to post huge fund-raising numbers in order to guard himself against self-funding candidates. This could be a reference to real estate mogul Donald Trump, who says he is considering the race and is willing to spend tens of millions of his own money if he enters. On the other hand, another likely opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, has only about $1 million on hand in his latest filing.
“We live in the real world, right?” Mr. Cuomo asked rhetorically. “We try to improve it, we propose new laws: new public financing system, new campaign finance reform. But you have to live in the real world. And the real world is somebody can run for office who has a ton of money and money, in and of itself, can almost win a campaign,” he said. “You see some of the names brag about [how] they have unlimited wealth and can spend anything and could dwarf my spending–as significant as my fund-raising has been, they could just dwarf it. They say that and they’re proud about it.”
Fundamentally, Mr. Cuomo said, the people of the state–including himself–can rest easy knowing he has their best interests at heart.
“I believe in my heart–and I believe the people of this state believe–that … I’m going to do what I believe is right,” he said. “I’m going to make a decision that I’m proud of because at the end of the night, I go home, I put my head on the pillow and I have to be able to fall asleep. And I can’t fall sleep if I don’t believe I’m doing the right thing.”
(Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father in law of Jared Kushner, the owner of Observer Media Group.)