Clifton Answers Questions from the 10/15 NYS Comptroller Debate, Pt. 1

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Libertarian candidate for Comptroller John Clifton has prepared answers (in bold, below) to the major questions asked of Thomas DiNapoli and Robert Antonacci at the Baruch College debate held on 10/15. The below summary excludes an opening or closing statement, or answers to trivial lightning round questions:

  • Pensions: The most important part of your job is as the sole trustee of the state pension fund, and with memories of the real estate crash, and the recession fresh in many minds, even the recent slump in the stock market (including today’s drop), what steps would you take as Comptroller to minimize risk and maximize profit for retired state employees? Should they be concerned about that, or is that just the normal ebb and flow of the market?

As I have explained online with reference to investing decisions related to energy, the entire concept of “public pension funds” is subject to reconsideration by a Libertarian Comptroller. Support for public pensions in New York and elsewhere has been dominated by the unions that benefit from unsustainably generous benefit packages. Libertarians believe in fundamental reform or repeal of public pension programs.  I would advocate ending the Common Retirement Fund, and thereby all “investment” of public pension funds, and transferring the assets to private administration or to an individual savings plan for pensioners. Let the private pension recipients or retirees then determine what to do with the deposited money, at their own risk or benefit.

  • Campaign Finance Reform (CFR): You [Antonacci] are the lone participant in the state’s brand-new pilot program for public campaign financing. It looks like you may not make the cut, as the most recent report indicates you are $50,000 short [for matching funds]. So was it a mistake, to agree to participate in this experiment, or was the deck stacked against you from the start? [DiNapoli], you basically had advocated that this office would be a good place for the pilot program, but didn’t agree with the way it came together, nor were you consulted. At this point, does Antonacci’s failure to qualify make you want to rethink your support?

The Governor’s restriction of CFR to the Comptroller’s office is selective and cynical, and designed to benefit himself while discomfiting the state rival he does not really support (DiNapoli). I maintain that public financing of campaigns is a drain on New Yorkers’ resources, and Antonacci failing to qualify is a good thing for voters. Election campaigns should not be subsidized by tax payers, and unions should not be able to forcibly collect funds from their members for use as political contributions without their members’ expressed consent.

 As for campaign finance laws in general, we should have less of them, just as we have less laws and regulations everywhere else.  All limits on campaign contributions should be eliminated. There should be public disclosure as to whether or not the sources and amounts of all campaign contributions have been disclosed, but not mandatory for the candidate to release them. Let the public decide if they want to vote for candidates who have not disclosed their donors.

  • Qualification: [DiNapoli], your rival is currently the Comptroller of Onondaga County. As state comptroller, do you have to work with him? Do you think he’s done a good job, do you think he’s qualified? [Antonacci], you’ve run for Congress, and also for Attorney General. Is this race some kind of consolation prize for satisfying your political aspirations, or do you have a vision for the state?

As Comptroller, I would agree to honor my obligation to serve the office, which includes seeking to work with others, regardless of political ambitions I may have, or policy or personal differences I may hold with other office holders in the state.

  • Settlements: The Comptroller’s office has now held two sitting assembly members, be rung up for per diem abuse for the system where they’re reimbursed for expenses while they are in Albany. In 2012, the Comptroller’s office approved a confidential settlement involving two young women who were harassed by assembly member Vito Lopez. What do you feel the Comptroller’s office role is in scrutinizing spending by our state legislatures, and other changes you would make if elected?

New York is among the worst and most corrupted environments for business, and the most oppressive for taxpayers in the nation, so it is not surprising that corrupt financial activity, or bad personal behavior by legislators towards employees is part of that syndrome. I am committed to exposing the artificial two-party paradigm, by emphasizing the “to infinity and beyond” solidarity of the establishment when it comes to endlessly increasing debt, spending and taxation to fund the state and federal government. The boilerplate, empty suit Democrat and Republican candidates will do nothing about changing any of this, as they benefit from the corruption and largess. Team Liberty candidates are committed to restoring honest government and freedom to New Yorkers, thereby minimizing the amount of corruption situations the Comptroller’s office would have to quietly settle.

  • Upstate economy: New Yorkers have heard many ideas for ways to revive the upstate economy, from Casino gambling, to tourism to hydraulic fracturing. What do you consider the most promising strategies for improving economic conditions upstate? And are there any ideas being attempted that you think just won’t work? E.g., do you think, or don’t think fracturing is a good idea? And since the Comptroller’s office speaks with a roar, would attempts to seek information from fracking companies about their best practices have a chilling effect on their operations?

I believe LP candidate for Governor Mike McDermott’s economic plans, which include a dramatic reduction of state taxes and encouragement of industrial hemp business throughout the state will be a boon to the state’s economy, upstate and downstate. While I do not believe the Comptroller’s office is uniquely responsible for advocating viable best practices for fracking, becausethe procedures may cause area damage that can affect property values, I would recommend such practices to support property owners in the state.

Libertarians support property rights, as well as constructive technological progress. We oppose eminent domain abuse (misuse of the process by private developers) often employed by lobbies to take property from others, for energy expansion or other commercial purposes. Fracking and other new extraction methods may frequently use toxic materials, or result in leeching toxic materials to a local environment. I would advocate for non-toxic fracking methods that solve those problems, but not for using government to take land from, or force private energy expansion on property owners who don’t want it.

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