New York Campaign Finance and Ethics News
1. Two recent scandals involving members of the New York State legislature serve as egregious examples of politicians thinking they are above the law. Senator Shirley L. Huntley, D-Queens, is accused of abusing a non-profit that she created to assist parents in navigating the New York City Department of Education. Huntley and several aides were indicted this week on charges of falsifying records, tampering with evidence and grand larceny. However instead of apologizing, Huntley asserts that the case is a politically motivated attempt to reduce her chances of reelection in the upcoming Democratic primary. Similarly, Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez, D-Brooklyn, was censured by the Assembly after an investigation revealed that he had sexually harassed two female employees. A secret payment of $103,080 of tax-payer funds was authorized in June to settle a different set of sexual harassment claims against Lopez. “Taxpayers should be funding public education, not to sweep harassment charges aside for bad elected officials,” said Dick Dadey, of Citizens Union.
2. Last week, Reform NY informed readers about 622 campaign committees that had not filed reports detailing their financial transactions with the New York State Board of Elections. This week, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics has released the names of sixty candidates in New York state legislative races who have failed to submit personal income disclosure forms. Candidates for statewide elected office must file a disclosure statement regarding outside employment and income, investments, financial liabilities, political activities and gifts, within ten days of certain election petition and nominating deadlines. Ellen Biben, Executive Director of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, stated that “Financial Disclosure Statements are important tools for the promotion of transparency and accountability amongst those who serve the public and those seeking election to public office. The Joint Commission will continue to use its powers and jurisdiction to ensure compliance with State ethics laws.”