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Moreland Report Final

Moreland Report Final

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Published by Casey Seiler
From the Moreland panel on public corruption
From the Moreland panel on public corruption

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Published by: Casey Seiler on Dec 02, 2013
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12/06/2013

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The legislature must not only avoid corruption, but even the whiff of it. Government
watchdogs, the media, and, most of all, members of the public have a right to understand how
their tax dollars are spent and by whom, as well as the process used to appropriate state funds.
The Commission recommends certain additional reforms to ensure that the abuses of the past
cannot be replicated in the future.

Identify the Sponsors of Legislatively-Directed Funds: As projects supported with
previously authorized funding move forward, the Commission recommends that, in order to
promote greater transparency and accountability of the process, legislators must identify
themselves as the sponsor of an expenditure using a publicly available method. Such
identification must include: (1) the name of the sponsoring lawmaker, and (2) an attestation by
the sponsoring lawmaker under penalty of perjury that the funds are being directed for a lawful
purpose and that the lawmaker is unaware of any conflicts of interest in connection with the
expenditure. Without such an identification and attestation, no expenditure should be allowed.

Keep Member Items in New York’s Past: Moreover, the Commission recommends that
the State should continue Governor Cuomo’s commitment to discontinue new member item funding.
The Commission believes that if a project is worthwhile, it should be lined out in the budget. These
projects should be subject to sunlight and scrutiny and should stand on their own merits.

III. Unlawful Personal Use of Campaign Accounts

Although not part of the package of reforms the Commission recommends to improve the
financing of election campaigns, the Commission also proposes that our election laws be
amended to address personal use of campaign accounts. Campaign contributions are intended to
help candidates pay the costs of their election campaigns. What saves contributions from
impropriety – and, in fact, makes them a positive contribution to the functioning of our
democracy – is that they cannot be used by candidates for their personal activities and are,
instead, reserved for campaign purposes. But New York’s Election Law fails to clearly preclude

the personal use of campaign funds.

The Commission is investigating candidate expenditures to examine potential misuse of
campaign funds by candidates for personal purposes. The Commission has observed numerous

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instances of candidates compensating their relatives for certain campaign jobs and events, paying
for such things as expensive clothing and cigars, as well as dozens of instances of candidates
paying large credit card bills with campaign funds with no attempt to itemize the underlying
expenses that contribute to those bills. Many of these expenses may in fact constitute valid
campaign expenses. The Commission has issued numerous bank account subpoenas and will
wait to make those judgments while its investigation continues. At a minimum, however, these
filings provide further evidence that the existing Board of Elections enforcement structure –
discussed at length later in this Report – does little to compel elected officials to provide a full
accounting of their expenses. Candidates cannot be allowed to summarize tens of thousands of
dollars of campaign expenditures with an inscrutable or inapt description – or, often, no
description at all – that provides the public with no detail as to where the money is actually going
or how it is being spent.

In addition, the Commission has investigated whether campaign funds are being
improperly used to pay for certain vehicle expenses.29

Legislators are entitled to reimbursement
for travel expenses related to their official duties; however in order to claim a reimbursement, a
legislator has to actually incur an expense. The Commission’s efforts to reconcile campaign
finance records against official travel reimbursement records suggests that some legislators may
be using campaign funds to purchase vehicles, EZ Passes, and fuel while simultaneously
claiming full reimbursement from the state for mileage expenses. If substantiated, this “double-
dipping” would allow legislators to pocket the taxpayer-funded reimbursement. The
Commission’s investigation of this practice is ongoing; we have not yet drawn conclusions about
the propriety of the type of reimbursement requests depicted in the accompanying chart.

Campaign Paid Vehicle
Expenses 2010-2013*

State-Paid Mileage Reimbursement
2010-2013

GOP Senator

$50,275

$15,884

Dem. Assemblymember

$33,689

$16,775

Dem. Senator

$27,159

$5,254

GOP Senator

$23,135

$8,715

GOP Senator

$20,209

$22,960

GOP Senator

$19,773

$18,500

GOP Senator

$18,373

$18,832

Dem. Assemblymember**

$15,285

$27,792

Dem. Assemblymember

$5,970

$26,922

Dem. Assemblymember**

$5,894

$14,123

29

The Commission is also investigating Legislative per diems and travel reimbursements. In the Assembly, the per
diem and travel expenses payments from 2008 through 2012 have averaged approximately $17,000 for
Assemblymembers and approximately $16,700 for Senators.

* Totals include vehicle loan/lease payments, insurance, maintenance, and repair costs identifiable in campaign
financial disclosures. Gas charges, which one legislator charged his campaign nearly $23,000, were excludes,
though state mileage reimbursement should include gas costs.
** This member is no longer serving in the legislature.

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The Commission has also begun to look into the uses of the campaign accounts of
individuals who have left office. Of 40 former candidates selected for review, the Commission
has identified almost $3.5 million in reported expenditures since 2000 that were incurred after a
candidate ceased to be a candidate. The uses of these campaign funds are multitudinous: some
former candidates become lobbyists and contribute their campaign cash to those they may lobby,
and some use the campaign funds for holiday cards, travel, and other expenses. However, these
former candidates plainly are not using the funds for campaign purposes.

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