ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo has received $361,500 and the Legislature has raked in more than $1 million from gambling interests leading up to the Nov. 5 casino referendum which is being challenged in court, according to a new report.
Common Cause of New York found $3.3 million in campaign contribution to Albany leaders from 2011 to July. Soon after, the governor and legislative leaders changed the wording of the referendum to an unusually rosy tone, promising seven Las Vegas-style casinos in New York will bring lower taxes, more school aid and more jobs — all of which are disputed.
There is no mention of the addiction and other social ills associated with gambling. Good-government groups and newspaper editorials have criticized the unusual wording of the referendum that must be decided by New Yorkers split over the issue.
A recent editorial in New York's Daily News called it "perverting the constitutional amendment process" and "trying to rig the vote."
"The assumption is when you go to the ballot the referendum you are presented is not biased," said Susan Lerner of Common Cause. "To us, this is a terrible precedent. We hope not to see it again."
Common Cause plans to provide a legal brief in support of a lawsuit in state Supreme Court challenging the re-wording of the referendum.
Attorney Eric Snyder has a Friday court date for his lawsuit challenging the language of the referendum. Snyder, who opposes casino gambling, argues that state law prohibits the use of public money to influence voters in a referendum. Rewording the casino referendum with benefits not even mentioned in the law that authorized the referendum uses public money to get a "yes" vote, Snyder said.
That law enacting the referendum had once prohibited campaign contributions from gambling interests. But that was dropped during closed-door negotiations.
Common Cause found 11 groups made contributions in the six figures, including the New York Gaming Association, an operator of video slot machine centers, which contributed $543,051. The Seneca Indian Nation contributed $525,650.
—The campaign committee of the Assembly's Democratic majority received $414,750.
—The campaign committee of the Senate's Republicans, who share control of the majority, received $403,750.
—Sen. Jeff Klein, who leads the Independent Democratic Conference that shares control of the majority with Republicans, received $51,800.
—Republican Sen. Thomas Libous, deputy majority leader, received $51,800.
—The chairmen of the Senate and Assembly racing and gambling committees received over $110,000 combined.
The balance included $129,500 to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and key legislators as well as the $61,230 to the Republicans in the Assembly's minority and $82,000 to the traditional Democrats in the Senate's minority.