WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
A powerful health care union spent more than $6.3 million over two months this year in a campaign to support Governor Andrew Cuomo's efforts to reduce state health care costs, according to New York state disclosure documents.
Along with health care union 1199/SEIU, the Greater New York Hospital Association teamed up to run a multi-faceted effort that used phone banking, print ads and a massive broadcast buy — the latest example of a strategic post-election ad buy that experts say are not only effective but also here to stay.
Cuomo did keep his pledge to bring in key stakeholders on health care, including the union to the table into the process. There were $2 billion in cuts but home health care workers had a shot at better wages.
1199/SEIU's would not comment on their multi-million dollar ad campaign, but in the past, the union has used its media sophistication and deep pockets to oppose governors.
Earlier this year, the Committee to Save New York, representing business groups in support of Cuomo's push to cut spending and not raise taxes, spent several million dollars in a similar ad buy.
"I think in the future people holding executive positions in government are going to have to do that to get their message across and also prevent the other messages from saturating the air waves," said Democratic campaign strategist George Arzt.
Susan Lerner of Common Cause said spending on issue ads has exploded in Albany from more than $2 million in 2008 to close to $19 million last year. She also said there should be more disclosure on who is behind the ads.
"You have no idea who was talking to you. So as a member of the public you are not able to evaluate the credibility of the speaker in order to weigh if you are going to give credence" to the behind the scenes special interest.
Dick Dadey, with the good government group Citizens Union, said the outside advocacy media buys helped Cuomo carry his agenda forward. But Dadey agrees with Lerner that more disclosure should be required.
"It definitely should result in how these campaigns are reported because you really don't know who is operating behind the vail of secrecy," he said.