Cuomo budget calls for ethics, campaign reforms: “People are believing in New York. The one omission is ethics.”
January 21, 2014
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday asked lawmakers to lower the limits on campaign donations, allow a taxpayer-funded campaign finance system and make new crimes for public corruption.
“People are believing in New York. The one omission is ethics,” Cuomo said. “And it’s the one negative they hear over and over and over because it’s a drip, drip, drip of these negative one-off stories and it has to be addressed.”
- A system of public financing similar to New York City’s system, where contributions up to $175 are matched $6 to $1. Senate and Assembly candidates would be eligible for the voluntary program in 2016 and other state offices in 2018.
- Reducing the following donor limits: On aggregate contributions to a housekeeping committee to $25,000 per year; on corporate contributions to $1,000 instead of $5,000 per year and close the so-called “LLC loophole,” which allows companies to exceed limits by donating through many affiliated companies.
- Allowing resident taxpayers to check off a box on their state income tax returns to donate money to a new campaign finance fund.
- Limiting the use of contributions to expenses that are directly related to elections or public duties.
- Creates a new election enforcement division with $5.3 million and 11 new staff members , increasing total staff to 29.
The budget also proposes reforms to laws governing the state’s anti-bribery laws, which Cuomo called “tepid.”
If approved, new laws would make it a crime to fail to report bribery and increases the crime of official misconduct from a misdemeanor to three different levels of felony charges. Government officials convicted of felony corruption crimes would also be permanently banned from serving in public office, receiving certain tax benefits or doing business with the state, including through any organization they run.
Perhaps one of the most contentious proposals will be Cuomo’s suggestion that lawmakers be required to disclose the names of their firms’ clients who have business before the state. Legislators have already rebuffed Cuomo’s attempts to secure that information through the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption.
Last year, Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman created the commission to investigate corruption and lack of election law enforcement in Albany. The commission held hearings and issued its first report in December, which hinted at a culture of ethical lapses that range from “perfectly legal yet profoundly wrong” to possibly criminal.