Money in Politics in New York: Sept. 20 edition

U.S. and NY Attorneys Testify at Moreland Commission’s First Hearing
The Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption held its first hearing in New York City on Tuesday. The Commission, composed of district attorneys, law professors and private sector lawyers, was appointed by Governor Cuomo to investigate corruption in the state legislature. Federal prosecutors, state district attorneys, reform organizations, and members of the general public testified at the hearing. Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York who is leading the corruption cases against lawmakers caught taking bribes earlier this year, was the first speaker. He decried the “unacceptable level” of corruption in Albany. Under new policies,his office will use civil forfeiture to prevent convicted public officials from collecting a tax-payer funded pension. Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, called for greater financial disclosure by legislators to reduce the potential for conflicts of interest. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. recommended changes to state laws that would ease the burden for prosecutors trying corruption cases. Read more…

Surge in Health Data Innovation: $2M Data Challenge and Leading Role for NYS


NYS Health Department has emerged as a national leader on public health data.

In August, the Knight Foundation announced a health innovation challenge, with the winners splitting $2 million in prizes for proposing the best ways to use open data related to public health. Yesterday, the contest officially began, with Knight now accepting submissions. Fittingly, New York’s award winning health commissioner and open data maven Nirav Shah MD was on hand at a Knight event in New York City to help launch the nationwide contest. Shah and his NYS Department of Health are clear national leaders in efforts to open up and maximize the value of government health data, and have helped bring together 19 leading states in an effort to spur new data and reporting standards.

The press release from the original announcement is below. See the current entries here.


The Knight Foundation have teamed with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, California HealthCare Foundation, Clinton Foundation and Health Data Consortium for a health innovation challenge offering $2 million for innovative use of health data.

The News Challenge launching on August 19th will call on innovators to answer the question: How might we harness data and information for the health of communities? Some of the ideal types of innovative ideas include:

  • Ideas that make large public datasets useful, e.g. Open Data Institute in the United Kingdom, which helped identify unnecessary spending on name-brand drugs instead of generics;
  • Ideas that help inform healthcare consumers, e.g. a ProPublica app that shows how much individual doctors have been paid by pharmaceutical companies; or, which tracks prescription drug prices nationwide and provides savings;
  • Ideas that leverage personal behavioral data, social media data and/or public data to inform lifestyle choices, e.g. the LIVES restaurant inspection score app; which mashes up fitness data with ambient data; andAsthmapolis, a mashup of data on asthma triggers, such as weather and pollen, with user symptoms; and
  • Ideas that inform local health policy, e.g. the County Health Calculator, which uses statistical data to determine how factors outside the health care system, such as education and income, affect our health.

The challenge will begin with an opening “inspiration” phase when anyone can identify needs, share success stories, post data sets and contribute ideas. Afterwards, the challenge will be open for entries September 3rdthrough the 17th.

Nice job! Groups Digitize Albany Ethics Data


Columbia Journalism School’s The New York World, in cooperation with some of our favorite advocates at NYPIRG and Common Cause/NY, has created a searchable spreadsheet of the New York State Legislature’s ethics disclosure forms. The reports are based on handwritten disclosure forms submitted to the Joint Committee On Public Ethics (JCOPE) under state law.  The forms show the income, assets and debts of each member and his or her spouse. In spreadsheet form they are far easier to search, sort and analyze. The newly opened data has already spurred news reports on how much legislators make and how rich they are — on average, they make 3x New York’s median household income of $57,000, and 27 of 212 are millionaires.

Of course, this all begs the question, in this age of smart phones and apps that can do everything, why in the world aren’t these forms submitted online in the first place?

You can use the the site to browse the data, or simply download the data itself.