by Fred Dicker
March 31, 2014
The activist son of leftist billionaire George Soros nearly derailed an on-time state budget as he threatened to launch multimillion-dollar TV campaigns against Gov. Cuomo and legislative leaders unless they approved a sweeping system of publicly financed campaigns, The Post has learned.
Jonathan Soros, who has already spent millions on campaign contributions and television advertising in an ironic campaign to “get private money out of politics,’’ warned Cuomo and the Senate’s co-leaders, Republican Dean Skelos (Nassau) and Democrat Jeff Klein (Bronx), Friday in direct conversations that he would launch election-year attacks against them, and encouraged others to do the same, if the pols didn’t include a system of publicly funded campaigns in the new state budget, a source close to the budget negotiations said.
Skelos had repeatedly opposed the scheme — which is backed by Klein, Cuomo, Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and a large coalition of “good-government’’ groups — as a Democratic- and union-backed strategy to block GOP-supporting private-sector groups from participating in state elections.
But Skelos finally agreed to a bizarre plan to publicly fund a campaign this year only — and only in the state comptroller’s race, not in the contests for governor, attorney general, or the Legislature.
Klein, who is widely described as “obsessed with fears’’ that former City Councilman and one-time state Attorney General Oliver Koppell will challenge him with Soros’ backing in a primary this fall — initially said that plan wasn’t good enough.
He clashed bitterly with Skelos over the limited proposal and even threatened to hold up the entire budget agreement, it was learned.
Only with Cuomo’s intervention as a “marriage counselor’’ was the limited public-finance plan given a green light by Klein.
“The governor sat there with Klein and Skelos like a marriage counselor, telling them that they had to resolve their differences or end their [political] marriage,’’ said the well-placed source.
“The governor said to Klein, ‘If you don’t like Skelos’ position, then your marriage with him as co-leader is over.’ ”
When Klein finally agreed to the comptroller-only plan, Cuomo, himself nervous over the reaction of Soros and others who wanted the far broader proposal, warned Klein not to attack it for fear that would lead to attacks on the governor, it was learned.
Klein agreed. His statement Saturday on the final budget agreement contained only these tepid words: “Our work on campaign-finance reform is not yet done, and as part of the budget process, we must continue to negotiate towards a comprehensive system of public financing.”
Koppell told The Post that he’ll decide on whether to challenge Klein within two weeks.
While Klein is widely viewed as vulnerable, Koppell has told friends he’ll run only if he has strong support from the city’s politically powerful labor unions and the backing of key donors like Soros.
A little-noticed finding in a recent Siena College poll showed New Yorkers aren’t as pro-abortion as claimed by Cuomo and many Democratic activists, who regularly rail against the “Republican war on women.’’
The poll, conducted in conjunction with colleges in New Jersey and Virginia, found New Yorkers in a virtual tie, 46-48 percent, over whether abortions should be banned 20 weeks, or five months, after conception.
What’s more, the percentage of New Yorkers favoring a ban on later-term abortions was higher than those favoring them in neighboring New Jersey, 43 percent, and in Virginia, 42 percent.
NOW-NYC has been seeking to portray pro-life GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino as an abortion extremist, claiming — without providing evidence — that he opposes all abortions “even in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.’’
Astorino, the Westchester County executive, called the claim a lie. Repeated attempts to reach NOW spokeswoman Brielle Nalance by phone and e-mail — seeking proof of the charge — were unsuccessful.