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Cuomo chats, donors bring dollars

ALBANY -– A day after state lawmakers publicly rebuked his transportation commissioner for not providing details about a big new roads and bridges construction program, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was behind closed doors in Manhattan this morning talking about his infrastructure plan to a room of big political donors.

Corporations and others were asked to spend as much as $50,000 to participate in a panel featuring Cuomo at this morning’s Democratic Governors Association. The money raised is going to the national governor’s group, not Cuomo, though the governor’s supporters believe the event -– and the money he helped raise -– will be of benefit to Cuomo’s intentions to be in the mix for a 2016 White House run.

“We talked about infrastructure needs,’’ Cuomo told reporters at a Manhattan hotel where the fundraiser/seminar was held. He said the speech basically outlined the proposal he made for a $15 billion infrastructure program as he made in his recent State of the State speech. Major elements of the plan, including a list of projects and how private sector money will be raised to fund it, have not yet been released.

Cuomo defended his appearance before donors with prime access to him. “Well, then, that could be any fundraiser, right?’’ Cuomo said. He noted that every politician at every level holds fundraisers. “One of the things we have to do is get money out of politics,’’ he said.

Asked about donors’ names not being made public, Cuomo said he did not know the specifics of the campaign finance law that applies to the Democratic governors group. He also said he did not know how much people in the room -– which he estimated at between 200 and 250 -– paid to attend.

“Your issue is, ‘Well, people are in rooms where people contribute money.’ That is the current state of politics and that is every elected official in every fundraising forum,’’ Cuomo said.

Cuomo noted his proposals to change the state’s campaign finance laws. “But the federal finance laws, that’s someone else’s problem,’’ he said.

The event was closed to the media. His public schedule did not mention his appearance at the forum.

The governor's transportation commissioner, Joan McDonald, was grilled -- with little or no success -- by lawmakers Thursday searching for specifics of Cuomo's plans for infrastructure improvements in New York.

-- Tom Precious

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