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NYPIRG CF Violations 2011-2

NYPIRG CF Violations 2011-2

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Published by Celeste Katz
NYPIRG CF Violations 2011-2
NYPIRG CF Violations 2011-2

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Published by: Celeste Katz on May 07, 2013
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07/10/2013

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For immediate release: For more information:
Tuesday, May 7, 2013 Bill Mahoney, (518) 817-3738
Malignant Neglect: The Abject Failure of t
he State’s Campaign Finance Laws
 103,805 Violations of New York State Campaign Finance Law in Past Two Years
Comparing enforcement of campaign finance law in Albany and New York truly is a tale of two cities. InAlbany, it is unfortunately the worst of times for voters longing for ethical and transparent governmentdriven by a functioning electoral system.In the 2009 election cycle, the New York City Campaign Finance Board imposed 128 penalties on 31candidates for over-the-limit contributions. When the Board of Elections has received complaints aboutsimilar violations in the state level
 –
in 2009, for example, NYPIRG identified 346 corporations that
donated more than the state’s $5,000 aggregate annual limit –
letters were sent to the donors, but nopenalties were ultimately levied.In the 2009 election cycle, the New York City Campaign Finance Board imposed 95 penalties on 20candidates for reporting donations from unregistered political committees. Yesterday, Citizens Unionidentified 224 political clubs in New York City that had donated to or received funds from statecandidates while failing register as committees.In the 2009 election cycle, the New York City Campaign Finance Board completed 219 audits as of April2013. That year the Board of Elections completed 0. Recent news that their enforcement unit has nostaffers indicates this is unlikely to change anytime soon.The one enforcement activity that the Board of Elections has claimed success in is identifying candidatesthat do not file on time. In their 2011 annual report, they claimed to have mailed 9,848 letters totreasurers letting them know their filings were late.
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They imposed small fines on 792 of them.Unfortunately, this practice of enforcement-by-letter has not stopped candidates from failing to file. AnAugust 2012 report by NYPIRG found that over $3
1 million in campaign funds has gone “missing inaction.” 2,328 active committees had not disclosed any transactions in the July filing period, including
622 committees with over $12M in the bank that appear to have fallen off of the grid and simplystopped filing.
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Many of the violations summarized in this report are admittedly relatively minor. The failure of acandidate to provide the address of a vendor they paid is not
ipso facto
evidence of corruption.However, these omissions
in such huge quantities
can prevent auditors or members of the publicfrom uncovering more serious violations of the law. In any event, missing information means the publicgets an incomplete picture of how campaign funds are raised and spent.The severity of corruption among participants in the New York State system has been exponentiallygreater than in New York City, as can be seen in cases such as that of former Comptroller Hevesi. Caseslike the recent conviction of City Comptroller L
iu’s treasurer
are uncovered less frequently at the statelevel since the information needed to alert investigators is masked by the shroud of opacity createdwhen thousands of candidates fail to obey disclosure laws.Further, the massive number of minor violations is indicative of a system in which the purportedenforcement entity is willing to tolerate a complete disregard for its regulations. Lax enforcement of minor violations can both hide more serious corruption problems and breed a general sense of lawlessness that lets some politicians grow comfortable with ignoring ethics and election laws.Many of the public officials recently accused or convicted of corruption would have been at the top of the following lists in years past. Senator Pedro Espada and Assemblyman William Boyland, for example,each failed to submit dozens of legally-required disclosure forms. Under a functioning campaign financesystem, these early red flags should have told investigators to examine their political dealings moreclosely. Unfortunately, failure to obey basic laws such as the requirement to file are so common thatthe entire system is held in disregard.
 Methodology
This analysis examines campaign finance disclosure reports submitted to the New York State Board of Elections between January 2011 and January 2013. All of the information is current as of April 26, 2013.
Violation Totals
Count Type278Entities reported as corporations giving more than $5,000 in201218,156 Donations with no address44,834 Expenditures with no address454 Donations with no date429 Expenditures with no date14,606 Itemizations filed improperly80 Expenditures with no payee22,416 Expenditures with no correct expenditure code2,328 Committees failing to report as of July224 Political clubs not registered
 
Corporations Donating More than $5,000 in 2012
The Board’s database shows that 278 corporations gave over the legal $5,000 aggregate contribution
limit in 2012.
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 Some of these apparent violations are explicit. The five companies listed below gave between three andtwelve times their aggregate annual limits in single checks. It seems clear they are each corporations
and do not simply appear as such due to filer error: searches on the Department of State’s w
ebsite
identify the first four as such, and the fifth is given the suffix “INC.”These are the apparent violations of law that should prompt an immediate response from the state’s
enforcement entity. Sadly, they are likely to produce silence.Filer NameType of Transaction Date Amount Corporate DonorREAL ESTATE BOARD PACB-Corporate 17-Oct-12 $59,000.00PLANNED DEVLOP MGMTCORPSUFFOLK COUNTYCONSERVATIVECHAIRMAN'S CLUBB-Corporate 22-Oct-12 $50,000.00 KOCH IND INCFRIENDS OF EDMANGANOB-Corporate 21-Dec-12 $25,000.00 BOLLA MANAGEMENTFRIENDS OF WILLIAMNAUGHTONB-Corporate 18-Sep-12 $18,300.00 KINGS PARK IND INCASSOCIATION OFINDEPENDENTCOMMERCIALPRODUCERS, INC. PACB-Corporate 09-Feb-12 $17,500.00 CAPS UNIVERSAL INC.
Failure to Report Addresses
Election law clearly requires that all contributions over $99 and all expenditures of $50 or more must bereported to the Board of Elections. Campaign treasurers need to report information such as the donor
or payee’s name and address. T
he need for this disclosure is obvious. Without the inclusion of addresses, it is often impossible to tell who is funding a political campaign and might be seeking toinfluence a politician.
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This number is likely not exact: many candidates incorrectly list donations from LLCs or PACs as
corporations, meaning some of these are due to treasurers failing to obey the Board’s regulations; and
many corporations are reported with a variety of spellings, masking donations they may have givenabove the legal limit. Past investigations by NYPIRG show that these two factors generally balance out.
The Board’s complete disregard for three complaints filed in recent years makes it pointless to perform
a thorough investigation.

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