ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A good-government advocate reported Friday that New York legislators and their political committees have held or scheduled 164 campaign fundraisers in Albany during this six-month legislative session, requesting minimum donations ranging from $125 to $1,000 depending on their positions and power.
New York Public Interest Research Group legislative director Blair Horner said the numbers, culled from invitations to lobbyists, show the ongoing trend to more events and higher asking prices that are paid by professional lobbyists.
“This is the most brazen example of how Albany operates,” Horner said, with lobbyists trying to convince legislators to do something at the Capitol in the daytime, and then giving them money at night. He said 30 years ago fundraisers were rare in Albany, where the part-time lawmakers meet for a few days most weeks from January to June.
All 63 Senate seats and 150 Assembly seats are up for election this fall. The base annual salary for the two-year job is $79,500 plus per diems for meals, mileage and lodging in Albany.
Asking for $1,000 at their events were Senate co-leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican; Sen. Tom Libous, deputy Republican Conference leader from Binghamton; Sen. John DeFrancisco, a Syracuse Republican and Senate Finance Committee chairman; Sen. Mike Gianaris, deputy Democratic Conference leader from Queens; and Sen. Tim Kennedy, a Buffalo Democrat.
“There’s a relationship between the size of the donation they request and the relative power of the member,” Horner said.
Most senators requested $500 minimum campaign donations.
Most Assembly members requested at least $250 though several asked for more.
Assembly member Shelley Mayer, a former assistant attorney general and Yonkers Democrat first elected two years ago, asked for $125 at her fundraiser, less than other legislators. “I like the opportunity for all of my supporters to be able to contribute, and a lower price allows many of them who do not make a lot of money to show their support,” she said.
NYPIRG’s list included eight other fundraisers held during the legislative session in Manhattan, including the Senate Republican Campaign Committee asking for $1,500 minimums at the Sheraton Hotel in May and the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee asking for $1,000 minimums at the Grant Hyatt in May and at the Plaza Hotel in June.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also facing an election this year, has a campaign fundraiser scheduled at the Grand Hyatt in New York City for June 30. At his Feb. 26 event in Albany, he asked for $15,000 per person for “dinner and conversation” at a venue with “very limited” seating where guests got the address when the provided an RSVP.