Dr. Rudy Mueller, candidate for the state Assembly's 150th District, said New York state has one of the worst and most expensive campaign finance systems in the nation.
He agrees with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's call for public financing of elections and supports his proposal or the 2012 Fair Elections Act, Assembly Bill 09885.
"Over 20 years ago New York City enacted similar reforms that have resulted in more city residents participating in and contributing to local elections," Mueller said. "Smaller contributions to campaigns by a larger number of people have also helped reduce the influence of lobbyists, outsiders and special interest groups. This stands in stark contrast to our state and national elections that are unduly impacted by these big money groups. "
Dr. Rudy Mueller, pictured during a meeting of the Chautauqua County Legislature, has announced his support of the 2012 Fair Elections Act.
P-J file photos
Mueller said he will not take any money from corporations, special interest groups or political action committees such as the DACC, the NYS Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee.
"I believe we should get big money and special interest groups out of politics," Mueller said. "I also agree with Sen. John McCain and others that 'corporations are not people.' I will finance my campaign by contributions from individuals only. For years I have recognized the potential for corruption of elected officials arising from their need to raise large campaign funds. In fact, cooperating with ABC News, I helped to expose some of the outlandish techniques employed by a Congressional campaign committee in 2006. We showed how this national organization awarded bogus 'Physician of the Year' and 'Businessman of the Year' awards in exchange for thousands of dollars in award winners' donations to this same campaign committee. ABC News later was honored with an Emmy nomination for its reporting that brought such dubious practices to light."
OIL AND GAS LEGISLATION
Mueller pointed to a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Goodell as an example of campaign finance conflicts.
"For instance, Mr. Goodell, Chautauqua County's current state Assemblyman, recently accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from gas and oil companies," Mueller said. "At the same time, he also introduced Bill A05941, 'The Protection of Water Supplies.' The title implies that a landowner's water is being 'protected' but I believe Bill A0594 in many ways acts otherwise. This Bill will provide driller and producer companies protection from future landowner litigation claims by authorizing five areas of defense against the presumption of contamination. These defenses include requiring landowners to allow drillers access to conduct predrilling surveys or water tests, limiting landowner's claims only if their water supply comes within one thousand feet of the drilling well, and requires the pollution to occur within six months of drilling completion. If the bill is written to protect landowners, then why only '1,000 feet' or a 'six-month' time constraint placed on landowners?"
In response, Goodell said he reintroduced a bill originally drafted by former Assemblyman Bill Parment, D-North Harmony, to protect local homeowners in the unlikely event their water well is contaminated by a nearby gas well.
Under current law, a landowner has the burden of proving that any contamination of a water well was actually caused by the drilling of a nearby gas well. This burden of proof can be difficult and expensive because of the need for geology experts and other technical issues. The proposed legislation would shift the burden of proof to the gas well company to prove that the gas well did not affect any nearby water wells. The bill does not reduce liability for gas companies in any manner.
"As long as the gas companies continue to follow the strict environmental standards developed by DEC scientists, there will not be any groundwater contamination," Goodell said.
Goodell said since the first commercial natural gas well in the nation was drilled in Fredonia in 1821, more than 5,000 natural gas wells have been safely drilled in Chautauqua County. Goodell also said the natural gas industry is an important part of the regional economy. According to NYSERDA, there are between 4,500 and 5,000 people employed in the natural gas industry in Western New York, with an estimated $1.25 billion impact on the region.
Natural gas wells provide royalties and free gas to thousands of local homeowners and many local organizations in Chautauqua County, including the Girl Scouts, the Audubon Society and several school districts.
"We need a balanced approach to natural gas drilling that allows us to benefit from this valuable resource in an environmentally responsible manner. That is why I reintroduced the Parment bill that would protect local residents in the unlikely event of any water contamination," Goodell said.
Mueller also calls on Goodell to repay New York state a major portion of the estimated $30,000 to $40,000 in taxpayer-funded direct mailing costs for three mailings sent to most Chautauqua County households during the election season. This taxpayer-funded direct mailing service, while provided legally to all current Assembly members, costs taxpayers millions of dollars every year, Mueller said.
The original intent of the law that permits taxpayer-funded mailings was to inform constituents. Mueller said Goodell's recent mailings appear to be purely political and violate the law's spirit.
"If Mr. Goodell really is committed to reforming Albany, then I call on him to reimburse New York state and rightly pay for these taxpayer funded mailings from his campaign funds. I also call on all incumbents in the Assembly and Senate to end this practice of taxpayer-funded mailings to New York state households."
Dr. Mueller concluded, "It's time to stop special interest groups in buying political influence from elected officials and to end taxpayer-funded campaigns for incumbents only. I agree with the governor and the Assembly speaker, both of whom have called for public campaign finance reforms, and I would support either of their reforms or a fair compromise. The people of New York state deserve better from their elected officials and now is the right time to deliver real reform in campaign finance."
Goodell responded by citing his work in Albany, which includes bipartisan legislation to make New York more business friendly, reduce health care costs for small businesses, and protect local landowners. He is also taking a leadership role with Dunkirk Mayor A.J. Dolce to support NRG and has helped Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi to obtain special parkland legislation.
Goodell also cited legislation he co-sponsored with Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, D-Tonawanda, to allow small businesses to offer a basic health care package without all the state mandates. The legislation would significantly reduce the cost of health insurance for small business owners and employees, thereby making New York more business competitive. It would also help small businesses afford to provide health insurance to their employees.
"Unlike my opponent, I do not support massive tax increases for the wholesale government takeover of health insurance that will eliminate thousands of private sector health insurance jobs. Nor do I support millions of dollars in higher taxes to pay for political campaigns," Goodell said. "Bigger government and higher taxes are the problem, not the solution."
Goodell also cosponsored a bill with Assemblyman Charles Levine, D-Glen Cove, that requires state agencies to give small businesses a reasonable chance to correct any regulatory issues without incurring any fines.
"Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy, providing job opportunities for thousands of local residents. The last thing we want to do is treat small business owners like criminals," Goodell said. "This legislation was adopted by the state Legislature and signed into law by Governor Cuomo."
Although Assemblyman Goodell has supported bipartisan legislation that helps Chautauqua County residents, he said he remains a strong independent voice in Albany. He spoke on the floor of the Assembly against a proposed $4 billion tax increase that was ultimate rejected, strongly opposed the efforts by liberal New York City Democrats to increase welfare cash benefits by 10 percent and repeatedly opposed measures that would increase the size and reach of government and increase taxes.
"Instead, I will continue to work with moderate legislators from both parties to foster more job growth, cut taxes and health care costs, protect our groundwater, and help local residents," Goodell said.