Wednesday, December 01, 2010


Once again business groups in New York are planning to create an organized counterbalance to public sector unions and other progressive advocacy groups. The WSJ has the story: "With the encouragement of Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo, business leaders and civic groups are planning to raise millions of dollars behind a new effort to blunt the influence of public-sector labor unions over the statehouse. The group is in its infancy and still lacks a name. But the idea for a well-financed advocacy campaign to lobby for spending restraint and lower taxes has pledges of financial support from major corporate and real-estate figures. Organizers say they intend to play a vocal role in next year's budget battle, when Mr. Cuomo and lawmakers struggle to close a deficit approaching $10 billion."

We have commented on this kind of effort before-and our critique remains: "What's missing-and therefore the insufficiency-is the grass roots kindling that will be able to generate real mass support for political change. If there is no linkage, in our view, the money will be unable by itself to match the ground game of the WFP..."

This time a greater degree of seriousness-and the planning to go with it-seems to be present: "The plan isn't the first time that the state's business community has tried to create a counterweight to education, health-care and municipal unions, whose vast lobbying budgets, disciplined tactics and members willing to appear at rallies have helped ward off cuts to Medicaid, public schools and retirement benefits—the largest areas of state spending. But past attempts have fallen victim to internal squabbles and fund-raising problems. Last year, saw the rapid rise and fall of "It's Your New York," a similar effort led by a Long Island business association and a real-estate executive."

For his part, Governor Cuomo doesn't appear to be upset with the gathering new force: "People familiar with the project say it won't have any official connection to Mr. Cuomo and that its agenda of fiscal restraint won't necessarily be lock-step with the incoming administration. But Mr. Cuomo has kept a close eye on its progress. And a number of allies of Mr. Cuomo are also advising the group, including investment banker Felix Rohatyn, a co-chairman of the governor-elect's transition team."

All of the current planning seems to be a necessary ingredient for creating a successful counterbalance to the WFP-but will it be sufficient? We don't think so. What's missing are any links to grass roots homeowner and small business groups-links that would create the potential for the kind of citizen activism that would generate significant political power-for both the electoral process, and for promoting particular policy initiatives.

If the new group can devise a strategy to do this kind of grass roots linkage, it would be positioned to become a major political force. Stay tuned and see how this unfolds.