Money in Politics This Week

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.

Campaign Finance and Ethics News

1. A report issued this week by the Center for Working Families finds that Pedro Espada’s contributions from the real estate industry skyrocketed once the ex-state Senate Majority Leader took over the housing committee. The report not only finds that Espada’s fundraising shot up by over 650% once he became Chairman of the housing committee, but that over half of the funds Espada raised from 2009 to 2010 came from the real estate industry—and that only threecontributions, totaling a mere $800, came from his own district. The full CWF report can be read here.
2. An analysis by Common Cause of donor data from the most recent state legislative election reveals that the vast majority of contributions in state races originate outside candidates’ home districts. For instance, the data shows that two state Senators, Republican Mark Grisanti and Democrat Tim Kennedy, raised from 75% to 90% of their campaign contributions from wealthy donors living outside their districts. Additionally, about $3 of every $4 donated to Syracuse’s two state Senators—Democrat David Valesky and Republican John DeFrancisco—came from corporations or groups, not individuals, and most of that money came from outside the legislators’ district. Susan Lerner, of Common Cause New York, noted that most contributions for state races come “not from the actual voters” but from small clusters of zip codes near the Capitol, Wall Street, and the Upper East and Upper West sides of Manhattan.
3. The Times Union editorial board issued a strong call for Gov. Cuomo and the state legislature to improve the transparency of the new Joint Commission on Public Ethics, citing the commission’s recent refusal to release its voting records as a red flag that the commission is too secretive. Given that the commissioners of the new ethics watchdog are appointed solely by the governor and legislative leaders, “when a commission this important and this powerful votes, the public ought to know who is voting and how they vote.”
4. Following the conviction of Yonkers Council Member Sandy Annabi and her political mentor Zehy Jereis on charges of corruption, US Attorney Preet Bharara stated publicly that “the investigation is ongoing,” suggesting that the bribery scandal surrounding Annabi’s sudden support for two development projects may grow. As an editorial in the lower Hudson Valley Journal News opined, “nothing in recent experience suggests, for an instant, that these prosecutions will be the last.”
5. The Buffalo News called on the New York state legislature to refrain from voting itself a pay raise in the absence of progress on needed reforms. The paper urged lawmakers to “focus on the matters that reform state government – the public financing of campaigns, for example –“ before they can consider benefiting themselves. New York legislators are already paid a base of $79,500, making them some of the nation’s “best-paid state legislators.”