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Lobbying group under fire

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Albany/HV: Lobbying group under fire
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New revelations about a powerful lobbying group have some at the Capitol asking for explanations about where its money comes from. Capital Tonight reporter Nick Reisman has more.

NEW YORK STATE -- New scrutiny is being placed on the Committee to Save New York, a coalition of wealthy business interests that have backed Governor Andrew Cuomo's agenda. After it was reported that $2.4 million came to the committee from gambling concerns, calls are growing for the group to disclose its benefactors.

“You know, it's disconcerting that we have a committee that is advocating on behalf of the governor and on behalf of issues affecting all New Yorkers where we do not have complete transparency,” State Senator Tony Avella said.

The calls come as the Joint Commission on Public Ethics meets Thursday to develop guidelines for non-profit lobbying organizations dealing with how far back in time they should go when it comes to requiring donor disclosure. It's part of an ethics law the governor himself championed, only it's unclear when the information will be made public

“I urge the governor to talk to the committee and get them to release all of this information,” Avella said.

The Committee to Save New York isn't the only non-profit that doesn't have to disclose where it gets its money. Hundreds of lobbying organizations with 501c4 status are registered to lobby and run advertisements on a variety of issues. But the multitude of ads from the committee and the lack of daylight between their agenda and Cuomo's fiscal goals have raised eyebrows over the last two years.

“I think they performed a service. We accomplished much of the agenda of the governor, whether it was property tax cap, pension reform, other issues that helped get the public on our side. So I don't think there was anything wrong with what occurred there and people have the right to contribute money,” Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said.

The committee raised $17.5 million in 2011 with the help of just 74 undisclosed donors. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the Cuomo administration advised gambling interests to donate millions to the committee. A month later Cuomo advocated for an expansion of casino gambling.

But Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto notes in a statement that it's because of Cuomo's advocacy of last year's ethics law that any disclosure will be made in the first place.

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