Comprehensive reforms seek to root out corruption, strengthen people's relationship with government

Strengthening the relationships between elected officials, and the neighbors who vote them into office.

That's the goal of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, as he calls upon the Legislature to crack down on public corruption, reform campaign finances, and make voting easier.

The Governor was at Syracuse University Wednesday, toting a three-part reform package.

Right now, many campaigns at the state level rely on large donations from private individuals or corporations -- sending mixed messages to voters and putting pressures on elected officials.

The governor wants to reduce the influence of wealthy donors.

As it stands now, candidates and groups that pay for campaign advertisements on TV are seldom required to reveal who is paying for the commercials. The new proposal requires full disclosure, within 48 hours of receiving funds.

To protect taxpayers, the plan also significantly cuts back on the amount of money the state can contribute to campaigns. LLCs will be treated as corporations, rather than individual donors.

"If somebody is contributing that much money, what do they expect, or what's the relationship?" The Governor said. "Public finance answers all of that in one move. It returns the authenticity of the system to the citizens and voters where it belongs."

The Governor also discussed changes to voting laws, in hopes of bringing more people out to the polls.

One change would allow 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote. That way, once they turn 18, they will automatically be in the system.

Under the proposal, the voter registration period would be extended up to 10 days before an election. Ballots would be written in a way that's easier to understand.

Finally, candidates and voters would be able to change their party affiliations three months after their application is received by the Board of Elections, instead of having to wait for the following election.

The Governor is also getting tough on public corruption. He says too many headlines exposing corrupt politiicans are causing people to lose faith in the system and the government.

"Whether it's reality or perception, it doesn't really matter because if people don't trust the government, that in of itself is a problem. Any relationship is only as good as the level of trust," he says.

Most recently, in April, a massive corruption probe led to the arrest of Queens State Senator Malcolm Smith, and other top downstate leaders accused of trying to buy Smith a spot on the Republican Mayoral ballot in New York City.

Smith was said to be paying off republican leaders to get a waiver to be their mayoral candidate.

The Public Trust Act would make it a misdemeanor for any public official to fail to report any bribes they may overhear. Violators would face jail time, and even be banned from government work.

The Act also allows District Attorneys to prosecute a witness, who would have previously been granted immunity -- and thus, not able to be punished for their role in possible corruption, if they testified before a grand jury, explaining what they knew.

Under the new law, prosecutors would be able to try the witness for their role in the matter.

District Attorneys would also be able to seek up to three times the amount of monies defrauded.

If the legislation does not pass in the next ten days of legislative session, the governor says he can enact the Moreland law, which allows him to put together an investigative committee to get to the bottom of the matter.

"There have been recent scandals, they have shaken the confidence in state government, given people pause, I believe we need a response to that. The Legislature needs to do something," he says. "I believe they should pass the anti-corruption laws, if they don't then I will form my own investigative committee to investigate wrongdoing in Albany. One way or another, we have to address what people are reading in the papers."