From Albany to Acapulco: NY Times Documents Massive Ethics Failure in Albany (again)

December 8, 2014

Today, the New York Times used vivid details to show New Yorkers  that Albany remains awash in money and utterly dominated by a cynical, pay to play culture that exploits every possible legal loophole, and often seems bereft of basic ethics. Huge legal loopholes allow legislators to spend campaign contributions on just about anything they want. Most notoriously, the ” LLC loophole” allows anonymous donors to contribute again and again via Limited Liability Companies.

After Ethics Panel’s Shutdown, Loopholes Live On in Albany is another outstanding piece by the Times’ Albany bureau, but it is long, and would have had a greater public impact run as three or four more focused pieces run over a month. This said, this piece is a must read for all concerned New Yorkers.

According to the Times, eight months after the Moreland Commission was prematurely shutdown by Governor Cuomo, little in Albany has changed.

■ Powerful politicians — including the governor himself — continue to exploit a loophole in state law that allows corporations to funnel huge donations to them in smaller gifts that disguise the true sources of the money.

■ Lax personal financial disclosure laws, critics say, give corrupt legislators a way to mask political payoffs under the guise of part-time jobs. A 2011 reform presented as requiring disclosure of some clients was so narrowly drawn as to be meaningless, and another enacted this year allowed enough wiggle room that lawmakers could well continue to avoid scrutiny.

■ The line between political donations and outright bribery remains murky. Some politicians used their campaign treasuries as piggy banks for personal expenses, the commission’s investigators found, and bank records showed that lawmakers had failed to report some donations and expenditures altogether. A new, beefed-up Board of Elections enforcement unit has yet to show its strength.