For Immediate Release: May 6, 2014

Contact: Gary Ginsburg | ginsburg@nysenate.gov | 518-455-2415


Senate Democratic Conference Urges Immediate Action On Tough
Ethics Package

Common Sense Reform Legislation Would Limit Use of Campaign Money and Strip Pensions
of Any Official Who Breaches Public Trust


(Albany, NY) The Senate Democratic Conference today called on the Senate Majority Coalition
to immediately bring legislation to reform state government and combat the ongoing corruption
issues facing New York State to the Senate floor. The Senate Democratic legislative package
builds on bills introduced during the 2013 session, but were left unaccomplished as
Republican/IDC Senators refused to advance them out of committee.

“New Yorkers deserve a state government they can be proud of, and that requires decisive
leadership to enact ethics reforms and clean up Albany,” Democratic Conference Leader
Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “Public corruption and the abuse of power is a problem that must
be confronted and eliminated. I urge my colleagues in the Senate Republican Coalition to join
with the Senate Democratic Conference to clean up Albany.”


Introduced in the Senate Democratic Conference ethics reform package are bills that will:

 Establish a public financing system for state campaigns and require greater
disclosure of campaign donations (S.4705-B – Senate Democratic Conference Leader
Stewart-Cousins):
o Campaigns in New York State are among the most expensive in the nation.
 Total contributions from the 2012 state legislative election cycle were
approximately $85 million.
 When you add in in-kind expenditures, candidate loans, and transfers total
receipts were at $105 million.

o Under S.4705-B, eligible contributions to candidates for statewide office up to
$250 would be matched at the rate of $6 for every $1.

o Candidates who are unopposed in a general or special election may not receive
public funds



 Lowering Contribution Limits (S.7181 – Deputy Senate Democratic Conference
Leader Gianaris):
o Current state campaign regulations allow donors to provide far greater amounts of
contributions than are allowed in other states, or for federal candidates.

o These high limits threaten the integrity of elections in New York State by
allowing small numbers of wealthy contributors to disproportionately affect their
outcomes. S.7181 will drastically reduce the limits on contributions to safeguard
the integrity of New York’s elections.

Bill sponsor Senator Mike Gianaris said, “For too long the voices of everyday New
Yorkers and the candidates that seek to represent them have been drowned out by
campaigns that rely on enormous donations from wealthy donors acting in their own
best interests. To preserve the integrity of democracy in New York State campaign
contribution limits must be dramatically reduced.”


 Retroactively strip pension benefits from any state or local official convicted of a
felony involving breach of public trust (S.1133 – Senator Breslin):
o The current law only regulates officials that joined the pension system after 2011
when the last ethics package passed. This legislation would affect all members of
the pension system.

o This resolution has been introduced as a constitutional amendment since it affects
an official’s pension.

Bill sponsor Senator Neil Breslin said, “State officials who are convicted of felonies
due to their unethical, corrupt actions and betray the public’s trust do not deserve to
receive any pension benefits. To expect the hard working taxpayers of New York
State to support these corrupt individuals is ludicrous and offensive. That is why I
have sponsored legislation to amend the State Constitution to close this loophole and
ensure that those who betray the public trust no longer receive benefits long after they
have been punished for their crimes.”


 Strengthen the regulations regarding the use of campaign money. (S.7184 – Senator
Gipson)
o This bill addresses a number of concerns with how campaign funds are raised and
expended. Currently, New York’s election law, allowing candidates to spend
campaign funds for “any lawful purpose,” is among the most lax in the nation.

o While spending campaign funds for personal use is technically prohibited, the
lack of any definition for what constitutes a personal use renders the provision
meaningless.



Bill sponsor Senator Terry Gipson said, “Using campaign accounts as personal
ATMs is wrong, and should not be tolerated by state law. Ending this corrupt and
unethical practice, and closing the loopholes in current state laws are common sense
ways to ensure these funds are no longer utilized for non-campaign related payments.
The public has a right to know how every dollar is spent on political campaigns and I
urge all of my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation.”


 Cap Contributions to ‘Soft Money’ Accounts (S.7203 – Senator Krueger):
o Currently, donors are able to provide unlimited contributions to soft money
accounts. Senate bill S.7203 would reform the campaign finance system by
capping donations to soft money accounts at $25,000.

Bill sponsor Senator Liz Krueger said, “The list of blind spots and loopholes in our
campaign finance and ethics laws is practically endless, but this one stands out: party
housekeeping accounts can accept unlimited amounts of money from individual
donors. Maybe there’s room for debate on the details of wider reforms, but I don’t
understand how anyone could oppose ending the open corruption of unlimited
donations to housekeeping accounts, as well as virtually unlimited donations to
campaign accounts via the LLC loophole. Every member of the Senate, Republican
and Democrat alike, should support these basic reforms or explain publicly to their
constituents why they think they should be able to receive unlimited amounts of cash
from well-heeled contributors.”


 Outlaw the use of campaign money for criminal defense (S.5094 – Senator O’Brien).
o This bill would outlaw campaign funds from being used for attorneys fees or any
costs for defending against criminal or civil prosecution for alleged violations of
any state or federal law.

Bill sponsor Senator Ted O’Brien said, “Corrupt elected officials who are caught
defrauding the public should not be allowed to add insult to injury by utilizing
campaign war chests to pay their legal fees. That is why I have proposed legislation to
ensure campaign funds can no longer be used to pay for any costs related to criminal
or civil defense. Campaign accounts should be used to support candidates getting into
office, not fund attempts to stay out of prison.”


 Require the Disclosure of Bundles (S.7186 – Senator Rivera):
o Under the current law, state campaigns are not required to disclose to the State
Board of Election when “bundling” contributions are received. Senate bill S.7186
would enhance state campaign finance disclosure reporting requirements by
making it necessary for said reports to contain information about those who
bundle contributions.



Bill sponsor Senator Gustavo Rivera said, “For far too long, corruption within the
realm of political campaigns has cast a negative light over New York State politics
and deterred many New Yorkers from getting involved in their local government. By
introducing this type of legislation, we are reminding all New Yorkers that restoring
the public’s trust in state government is of the utmost priority.”


 Closing the LLC Loophole (S.166-A – Senator Squadron):
o The Election Law does not adequately address the amount of political
contributions that a limited liability company (LLC) may make to candidates,
parties and political committees. As a result, the State Board of Elections allows
LLCs to be treated as individuals for purposes of a limit and, therefore, they can
donate up to $150,000 in any one year.

o This legislation would close that loophole and treat LLCs like corporations,
limited to $5,000 in annual contributions.

Bill sponsor Senator Daniel Squadron said, “It is high time to stop unchecked
corporate contributions from drowning out the voices of regular New Yorkers. Today,
New York’s campaign finance laws allow LLCs to give essentially unlimited
amounts to candidates. This package places a check on the deep pocketed, narrowly
focused special interests that for too long have had too much influence in our
elections. I thank the Leader for bringing this long overdue package together. I hope
we are able to pass it this session.”

 Close a Loophole in Disclosure Requirements (S.7135 – Senator Tkaczyk):
o Elected officials who retire or are not re-elected are currently not required to file
disclosure reports for the previous legislative session if they are no longer serving
in the Legislature on May 15
th
of the following year.

o This legislation will close that loophole and require disclosure forms for the entire
time that a statewide elected official, or a member of the State Legislature, serves
in office.

Bill sponsor Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk said, “Elected officials should have to file
disclosure reports for the entire time they represent the residents of New York State,
and should not be able to take advantage of loopholes in filing requirements. This
common sense legislation will ensure that elected officials are held accountable for
their entire term in office, even if they lose their re-election bids or retire.”

The Senate Democratic ethics package would regulate the use of campaign money, strip pension
benefits of officials who violate the public’s trust, establish a public financing system for state
campaigns and require greater disclosure of campaign donations.

Senator Tim Kennedy said, “Western New Yorkers are sick and tired of seeing elected officials
dragged out of the State Capitol in handcuffs. It needs to end now. These proposed reforms will


help crack down on the Albany crime spree and restore the public’s faith and trust in their
government. New Yorkers are impatient for change, and they are expecting decisive action to
clean up Albany.”

Senator Jose Serrano said, “I’m very proud to stand with my colleagues in the Senate
Democratic Conference as we continue to push our legislative package designed to root out
corruption in our State Legislature. It is my sincere hope and expectation that these basic and
forthright legislative measures will eliminate conflicts of interest that currently exist, while
helping to inspire public confidence in our state government.”

Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said, “Real campaign finance and ethics reform is long overdue.
Public confidence in elected officials is low across our state and for good reason. Lax regulations
have allowed individuals to exploit their office to subvert our democracy and quiet the voices of
ordinary New Yorkers. I stand with my colleagues in support of this comprehensive package of
bills, a first and necessary step in restoring public trust in the offices and institutions created to
serve the people.”

Jessica Wisneski, Legislative and Campaigns Director for Citizen Action of New York, said,
“We applaud Leader Stewart-Cousins and the Senate Democratic Conference for being
champions of Fair Elections. By proposing a system that provides enough funds to run
competitive campaigns and starting the system in 2016, this package of legislation will create a
strong public campaign funding system that will make New Yorkers proud of the government
they elect. We urge the State Senate to pass Fair Elections now.”

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New York State Senate | MinorityConference.News@nysenate.gov | 518-455-2415

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