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Eye on Albany: Political contribution limits on the rise?

Eye on Albany: Political contribution limits on the rise?

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Could a political contribution limit exceed $100,000 in New York? According to the New York Public Interest Research Group, it is likely.

In a press release Friday, NYPIRG estimated that the party committee contribution limit of $94,200 will be raised to $102,300, making New York the first state with a contribution limit of more than $100,000 among states imposing limits.

NYPIRG explained that in years following statewide elections, New York’s contribution limits are adjusted for inflation using the “consumer price index for all urban consumers” provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Using those figures, NYPIRG estimated the $8,100 increase for a party contribution limit, which would enable citizens to donate in excess of $100,000 to, for example, the state Democratic or Republican parties.

The increases don’t stop there. Higher contribution limits are expected for Democratic and Republican statewide primaries, Assembly primary and general elections, state Senate primary and general elections and statewide general elections.

The topic of contribution limits was mentioned in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address. Cuomo mentioned contribution levels as part of proposed campaign finance reforms, although it is unclear how much support Cuomo will have for these changes in the state legislature.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 23 states “limit contributions to political parties from most or all sources.” New York is one of those states and is already the largest limit in the nation. The next highest limit is in New Jersey, where contributions of $37,000 per year can be made to county party committees.

Bipartisan seating at State of the Union for Gillibrand, Schumer

Both of New York’s U.S. senators will be sitting next to members of the opposite political party at Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat, announced recently that he will be sitting with Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, during President Barack Obama's address to the nation.

On Friday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, also a Democrat, announced in a press release that she will sit with Sen. John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, at the State of the Union.

The idea of bipartisan seating came on the heels of the shooting in Tucson, Arizona that claimed the lives of six people and wounded 13 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Since then, members of Congress and others in government have called for civility and unity.

Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado proposed the idea of bipartisan seating at the State of the Union in a letter to congressional leaders. As of Friday, 31 senators and 28 members of the House of Representatives had co-signed Udall’s letter.

Along with Gillibrand and Schumer, Rep. Richard Hanna is listed as one of the 59 co-signers.

In other news:

• Rep. Richard Hanna, R-Barneveld, hitched a nice ride back to upstate New York Friday.

Hanna was invited by President Barack Obama to fly to New York on Air Force One and join the president in Schenectady for his speech on the economy at the GE plant there.

“I am honored that President Obama invited me to hear his comments about how we can grow our state and national economy,” Hanna said in a statement.

“It is with great pride that I welcome President Obama back to upstate New York. He will see the residents, workforce and business leaders of the Empire State are ready to lead the nation in rebuilding our economy.”

• I am working on securing guests for online town halls to provide readers with an innovative way to speak with their elected officials.

One guest is already confirmed: State Sen. David Valesky will join me at 6 p.m. Monday, January 31 for an online town hall. I also expect Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle to participate in a future session, so stay tuned for more on that.

You can e-mail me your questions to robert.harding@lee.net or submit your questions during the live chat. The chat will be  at auburnpub.com/citizenlive.

Online producer Robert Harding's Eye on Albany column appears Sundays in The Citizen. Head to auburnpub.com/eyeonalbany to read his blog. Harding can be reached at 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding

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