Money in Politics In New York This Week

March 30, 2012

Reposted with permission from The Brennan Center. Money in Politics is a series which regularly compiles the latest news concerning the corrosive nature of money in New York State politics — and the ongoing need for public financing and robust campaign finance reform.

1. New York’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics released its 2011 lobbying report this week, which found that the lobbying industry spent a record sum of $220 million last year in its efforts to influence state legislators. As JCOPE’s Executive Director Ellen Biben noted, “Apparently lobbying is recession proof.” The full report can be read here.

2. While JCOPE is an improvement on its predecessor, the ethics enforcement agency was criticized this week for neglecting to focus on legislators’ behavior in their home districts—for instance, Pedro Espada’s embezzlement scandal, which occurred not in Albany but in Espada’s home district in the Bronx.

3. Bill Mahoney of NY PIRG writes in Wednesday’s Times Union that in order for a public campaign financing program to succeed in New York state, it must be accompanied by an overhaul of the state’s current ineffective system. Comprehensive campaign finance reform in New York, Mahoney writes, must also include closing the loophole on “housekeeping” contributions to party committees, setting up regular audits of candidate’s campaign accounts, and giving stronger enforcement power to the state’s toothless Board of Elections.

4. Former Bloomberg aide and convicted felon John Haggerty still has friends in New York: the Daily News reports that three former aides to ex-Gov. Pataki have created a legal defense fund to pay his attorneys. While legal, the defense fund raises ethical questions concerning responses in Albany to illegal conduct by those working in government. Haggerty was sentenced last December to up to four years on charges of money laundering and grand larceny, for his siphoning $750,000 from election funds to buy a house in Queens.

5. US Representative Charles Rangel (D—NY), who was found guilty in 2010 of eleven ethics violations by the House Ethics Committee, is making headlines again. Rangel and his campaign have paid a $23,000 civil fine after it emerged that he used a rent-stabilized apartment as a campaign office, which effectively amounts to acceptance of campaign contributions beyond the legal limit.