New York Senate Democrats are re-upping several Bills as a response to the recent string of Public Corruption Arrests.
“I’m angry,” said Sen. George Latimer (D-37th District), said at a Press Conference. “In my nine years here at the Capitol, I’ve seen a conga line of guys who violated the public trust time and again.”
The Democrats’ would prohibit the use of Campaign Cash for Criminal Defense Fees, amend the State Constitution to Claw Back Pensions from Convicted Lawmakers, Restrict the use of Campaign Funds for Legitimate, Election-related purposes and require that Lobbyists Campaign Contributions be specially marked on Disclosure Reports.
The Democrats, who constitute the Minority in the Senate, called for their Bills to come for a Floor Vote. They did not propose changes to the State’s Fusion Voting system, which the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) would outlaw, or eliminating the Unlimited Contributions available to Party “Housekeeping” Accounts.
Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (35th District) said She and her Conference-mates would be “open” to supporting some of those other Measures. She also said former Sen. Malcolm Smith, charged with scheming for Bribery, has not asked to re-join mainstream Democrats after he was booted from the IDC. “I don’t foresee that,” she said.
Introduced in the Senate Democratic Conference Ethics Reform Package are Bills that will:
Strengthen the Regulations regarding the use of Campaign Money
- This Bill addresses a number of concerns with how Campaign Funds are Raised and Expended. Currently, New York’s Election Law, allowing Candidates to spend Campaign Funds for “any lawful purpose,” is among the most lax in the Nation.
- While spending Campaign Funds for Personal use is Technically Prohibited, the lack of any Definition for what Constitutes a Personal use renders the Provision meaningless.
Bill Sponsor Senator Terry Gipson (D-41st District) said, “For too long unethical politicians have used their campaign accounts as personal ATMs and defrauded the public as a result. Closing the current loopholes in legislation governing campaign funds is a common sense way to ensure these accounts are no longer utilized for non-campaign related payments. The public has a right to know how every dollar is spent on political campaigns and I urge all of my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation.”
Retroactively strip Pension Benefits from any State or Local Official convicted of a Felony involving Breach of Public Trust
- The current Law only Regulates Officials that joined the Pension system after 2011 when the last Ethics Package passed. This Legislation would affect all Members of the Pension system.
- This Resolution has been introduced as a Constitutional Amendment since it affects an Official’s Pension.
Bill Sponsor Senator Neil Breslin (D-44th District) said, “Elected officials who betray the public trust and are convicted of felonies due to their unethical, corrupt actions do not deserve any pension benefits. To expect the hard working taxpayers of New York State to continue to support these corrupt individuals is ludicrous. That is why I have sponsored legislation to amend the State Constitution to close this loophole and ensure that those who betray the public trust no longer receive benefits long after they have been punished for their crimes.”
Outlaw the Use of Campaign Money for Criminal Defense
- This Bill would outlaw Campaign Funds from being used for Attorneys Fees or any Costs for Defending against Criminal or Civil Prosecution for alleged Violations of any State or Federal Law.
Bill Sponsor Senator Ted O’Brien (D-55th District) said, “When corrupt elected officials are caught defrauding the public, their attempts to use campaign accounts to pay their legal fees add insult to injury. That is why I have proposed legislation to ensure campaign funds can no longer be used to pay for any costs related to criminal or civil defense. Campaign accounts should be used to support candidates getting into office, not fund attempts to stay out of prison.”
Require that Campaign Contribution Disclosure Reports to the State Board of Elections state whether the Contributor is a Lobbyist
- This Bill would Prohibit any Employee of a State Agency or Legislative Employee required to file an Annual Financial Disclosure Statement from Soliciting or receiving Campaign Contributions.
Bill sponsor Senator Liz Krueger (D-26th District) said, “For decades, our ethics and campaign finance laws have been defined by maddening loopholes and byzantine opaqueness. A strong small-donor matching funds system to empower everyday New Yorkers is essential to any reform package that’s serious about ending the pay-to-play culture, but it’s just as important that we make the lines between right and wrong crystal clear in our laws.”
- Require Elected Officials to post Campaign Donation Information on their Websites.
Establish a Public Financing system for State Campaigns and require greater Disclosure of Campaign Donations
The Senate Democratic Ethics Package would Regulate the use of Campaign Money, strip Pension Benefits of Officials who Violate the Public’s Trust, establish a Public Financing system for State Campaigns and require greater Disclosure of Campaign Donations.
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker