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Longtime Burlington, Vt. Mayor Miro Weinberger will not seek re-election

Report Examines NY Campaign Cycle Spending Trends

The League of Women Voters of New York State and the New York Public Interest Research Group are  out with an analysis of spending trends in the most recent campaign cycle - Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports.

The report found that fundraising for state legislative races dropped nearly 10 percent during the past two election cycles as money shifted to independent expenditures and spending on Senate races fell.

NYPIRG Research Coordinator Bill Mahoney says the total amount of contributions dropped to $85 million compared to $87 million during the 2009-10 election cycle.

Mahoney adds the diversion of funds to last year's record-setting presidential race may have also contributed to the decline. He also noted that it is difficult to track money spent by so-called Super PACS:  A Super PAC operated by Jonathan Soros spent $250,000 to boost Cecilia Tkaczyk from unknown farmer to senator.

Super PACS also became a factor in state legislative and executive races in Massachusetts and Vermont.

A pre-election analysis by the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group showed Outside spending organizations reported $ 1.11 billion dollars through the final reporting period of 2012, a 200 percent increase over outside spending in the 2008 cycle.

Vermont also saw its first wave of Super PACS active in 2012, perhaps the most notable being the conservative group Vermonters First, which spent over a million dollars in races for state treasurer, auditor and legislative races.

New York State League of Women Voters Executive Director Barabara Bartoletti says Super PACS use undue influence, enabling an entity to get what it wants politically when the official they've backed wins the election.

The groups believe Governor Andrew Cuomo is interested in tackling the issue of campaign finance reform, which they say would increase "participatory democracy" in New York

Bartoletti stressed that money follows power without regard to political party. The report found that most donations came from businesses or trade associations who gave almost $38 million, followed by individuals at $29 million; unions were third, giving nearly $14 million.

The report also found that the 2011 gay marriage debate and vote influenced giving, with former Republican senators Steve Saland and Roy McDonald and current Senator Mark Grisanti taking the top three spots for money donated by individuals: $648,680, $642,676 and $531,235 respectively.

All three received donations from well-known and wealthy same-sex marriage supporters including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Requests for comment to individuals associated with fundraising committees cited in the report were not returned.

The survey of fundraising was performed during the most recent election cycle for state legislative candidates.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.