by Kenneth Lovett
October 10, 2013
ALBANY — Before and after handing out giveaways like the “Jimmy Fallon tax credit” to film and TV production companies, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislators cashed in.
A Daily News/New York Public Interest Research Group analysis found that New York’s film and television industry has lavished Albany pols with more than $900,000 in campaign donations since 2010, with Cuomo raking in the largest haul.
The governor has taken $219,000 from the industry, including tens of thousands of dollars early this year while he was pushing to expand a production tax credit program to cover shows that relocate to New York, like Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” and “America’s Got Talent.”
The language in the budget bill that eventually passed the Legislature in March seemed so tailored to Fallon’s show that it came to be known in Albany as the Jimmy Fallon tax credit.
That budget also extends the popular $420 million production tax credit program through 2017.
The vote came two months after CBS, Disney, Fox, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Brothers Entertainment and the New York FILM Political Action Committee gave Cuomo a combined $25,000 on Jan. 16, with most reaching the $5,000 annual corporate maximum donation.
The film and TV industry also gave $130,000 as the budget was being negotiated to a Democratic Party account that was promoting Cuomo’s agenda at the time.
The timing raises eyebrows for government watchdogs.
“All too often, tax breaks are given to industries that write a lot of campaign checks,” NYPIRG researcher Bill Mahoney said.
But Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa said many of the donors gave to the governor when he was attorney general, “predating any talk of credit extensions.”
The industry also gave money to the Legislature, plowing $93,300 into the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee since 2019 and $71,700 to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee.
Among individual lawmakers, Sen. Martin Golden, the Brooklyn Republican who has carried several film industry-backed bills, received $30,300 since 2010, and Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) picked up $22,750.
Gianaris, whose district includes Silvercup and Astoria studios, is sponsoring a bill to allow the city to triple the size of the film tax break it can offer. The industry has also donated $75,750 to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee since Gianaris has been its chair.