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Blair Horner, ‘The Moreland Commission on Public Corruption and the Possibility for Reform in New York State’

Blair Horner, ‘The Moreland Commission on Public Corruption and the Possibility for Reform in New York State’



On March 13, 2014, Legislative Director Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group, spoke to Wagner College's Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform on the topic, ‘The ...

On March 13, 2014, Legislative Director Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group, spoke to Wagner College's Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform on the topic, ‘The Moreland Commission on Public Corruption and the Possibility for Reform in New York State.’



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Blair Horner, ‘The Moreland Commission on Public Corruption and the Possibility for Reform in New York State’ Blair Horner, ‘The Moreland Commission on Public Corruption and the Possibility for Reform in New York State’ Presentation Transcript

  • Presented at: Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) March 13, 2014 THE MORELAND COMMISSION ON PUBLIC CORRUPTION AND THE POSSIBILITY FOR REFORM IN NEW YORK STATE
  • REVIEW NYS’S POLITICS AND PLAYERS • 11.7 million registered voters • Roughly half are Democrats, the other half are roughly split between Republicans and others (including independents). • Pull NYC out of the mix and the state is split roughly 50/50 between Dems and Reps.
  • PLAYERS • Gov Cuomo (D) • US Senate Schumer (D), Gillibrand (D) • Congressional delegation (21 D, 6 R) • State Senate (63 total) – coalition majority (5 Dems+1 unaffiliated Dem+27 Reps). Co-leaders Skelos (R), Klein (IDC), minority Stewart-Cousins (D). • State Assembly (150 total). Democratic Control (95D) Speaker Silver, minority Kolb. • 12 open seats (2 Sen [1D, 1R], 10 Assm [6D, 4R])
  • WHY IS THERE A COMMISSION? William F. Boyland Jr. Charged with numerousfederal bribery counts, including soliciting bribes to pay for lawyers representing him in a bribery case. Joseph L. Bruno Charged with taking bribes and kickbacks disguised as consulting payments from an Albany businessman. Nelson L. Castro Accused of lying duringtestimony under oath in a lawsuit brought by a political rival who had accused him of election law violations. Mike Cole Censured after sleeping at the home of a 21-year- old female intern after a night of heavy drinking.
  • Pedro Espada Jr. Convicted of siphoning hundreds of thousands of dollars from his nonprofit health care network. Efraín González Jr. Sentenced on charges of using hundreds of thousands of dollars from nonprofit groups to pay for personal expenses. Diane M. Gordon Sentenced on charges ofhelping a developer acquire city-owned land in exchange for building her a house in a gated community in Queens. Alan G. Hevesi Served a prison sentence for his role in a sprawling scandal involving the state’s pension fund.
  • Shirley L. Huntley Pleaded guilty to stealing state grants and falsifying evidence. Carl Kruger Directed more than half a million dollars in bribes to businessmen. Vincent L. Leibell III Sentenced on charges ofobstruction of justice and tax charges. Vito J. Lopez Accused of sexually harassing two women who worked in his district office.
  • Brian M. McLaughlin Sentenced on racketeering charges that included using embezzlement, fraud and bribes to take money from taxpayers, labor unions and contractors. Hiram Monserrate Sentenced to two years in prison for misusing city money to pay for a Senate campaign. Kevin S. Parker Convicted of two counts of criminal mischief fordamaging a camerabelonging to a photographer for the New York Post. John L. Sampson Charged with embezzling funds from the sale of foreclosed properties and using the money to help finance a race for district attorney.
  • Anthony S. Seminerio Died in prison while serving a sentence for influence peddling. Ada L. Smith Convicted of speeding through a security checkpoint and of harassing an aide who said the senator had thrown coffee at her. Malcolm A. Smith Charged with trying to bribe his way onto the ballot to run for mayor of New York. Nicholas A. Spano Sentenced on charges of tax evasion.
  • Eliot Spitzer Resigned over an alleged liaison with a prostitute. Eric Stevenson Charged with accepting more than $22,000 in bribes to help developers open adult day care centers in his district.
  • THE GOVERNOR’S RATIONALE • Campaign promise: In his campaign report “Clean Up Albany,” the governor made reference to his intention to convene a Moreland Commission: As Governor, Andrew Cuomo will not hesitate to establish “Moreland Commissions” to investigate allegations of systemic corruption and wrongdoing in governmental entities, and recommend necessary changes. • Demand for reforms after most recent scandals: After the most recent arrests, the governor gave lawmakers a choice: Either they agree to reforms – voluntary system of public financing and the “public trust act” were the key demands – or he would form an executive commission with subpoena power to root out graft. Legislation was not approved and the governor created the Moreland Commission.
  • THE AUTHORITY GRANTED BY THE GOVERNOR AND THE ATTORNEY GENERAL • On July 2, 2013, Governor Cuomo appointed the “Commission to Investigate Public Corruption” under the Moreland Act and Executive Law Section 63(8) to probe systemic corruption and the appearance of such corruption in state government, political campaigns and elections in New York State. • Attorney General Schneiderman appointed the members of the Commission as Deputy Attorneys General giving the Commission broad investigative authority to probe matters that “involve public peace, public safety and public justice.”
  • CHARGE OF THE COMMISSION Areas where the Commission are focusing its investigation include but are not limited to: •Criminal statutes for corruption and misconduct by public officials, such as bribery laws; •Campaign financing including but not limited to contribution limits and other restrictions; disclosure of third-party contributions and expenditures and the effectiveness of existing campaign finance laws; •Compliance of outside organizations and persons with existing lobbying laws, including but not limited to organizations engaged in lobbying and other efforts to influence public policies and elections and the effectiveness of such laws; •Adequacy and enforcement of the state’s election laws and electoral process including the structure and composition of the state and county Boards of Elections, the Board of Elections’ enforcement and the effectiveness of and compliance with existing election laws.
  • WHAT HAS THE COMMISSION DONE? • July 2, 2014. Governor, Attorney General announce Commission. • Hearings: September 17, 2013 - NYC September 24, 2013 – Loudonville • October 28, 2013 -- NYC • Requests for information: August 27, requested information to be submitted by certain legislators. Leaders of the legislature for both the Assembly and Senate refused to cooperate. • Meetings
  • DECEMBER’S INTERIM REPORT – CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORMS • Lower Contribution Limits, and Fix Loopholes: Truly massive contributions – over $50,000 to statewide candidates for office and unlimited donations to party “housekeeping” accounts – are currently legal in New York. Recommends substantially lowering the contribution limits to political campaigns, and political parties. Recommends closing the so-called “LLC loophole” that allows certain, easily-formed companies to make contributions of up to $150,000, and the party “housekeeping” account loophole that allows unlimited donations to political parties. Recommends new limits for transfers from political parties to campaigns. • Institute Public Financing of Campaigns for New York: The Commission believes that public financing of campaigns, in the form of small donor matching funds, frees elected officials from reliance on massive donations from wealthy and powerful interests and invigorates citizens’ democratic participation, increasing public accountability and renewing the public trust. Small donor matching also allows those without access to well-heeled interests and without the support of large independent expenditures to nevertheless compete in elections. • Limit Use of Campaign Accounts: Recommends tougher and more specific standards for restricting the personal use of campaign funds and for better disclosure of campaign expenditures.
  • INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURES AND BOOST ENFORCEMENT • Disclose and Monitor Outside Spending: Recommends expanding the legal definition of an “independent expenditure” to cover ads that reasonable people would think are campaign ads; requiring disclosure of ultimate sources of funding for all of those ads, before the election; and making the disclosed information easily accessible in a searchable database. • Create an Independent Election Law Enforcement Agency: Its investigation revealed that the State Board of Elections lacks the structural independence, the resources, and the will to enforce election and campaign finance laws. The Board’s “bipartisan” structure has effectively led to a tacit, bipartisan agreement to do nothing – or, as one former enforcement counsel said, to “do the basement.” The Board’s practices are marked by a haphazard intake process for complaints; lengthy, inexplicable delays in making even initial determinations; an extreme paucity of actual investigations; and an abject failure to use legal and human resources for enforcement. • The Commission recommends creating an entirely new, structurally independent election and campaign finance law enforcement agency, headed by a director appointed to a fixed, five-year term by the Governor with Senate confirmation, and removable only for cause. • The agency would be structured for professional, nonpartisan, vigorous enforcement. All staff would be hired without partisan considerations, and would be free to conduct timely investigations, using all of the tools at their disposal, without the cumbersome burden of political hurdles, and without a politicized approval process. All election law enforcement would benefit from a non-partisan, structurally independent, professional enforcer whose sole purpose is safeguarding the integrity of the state’s elections and political system.
  • ETHICS REFORMS • Broader Disclosure of Outside Income and Lobbyist Relationships: Recommends broader disclosure of large clients, both by legislators and their firms, when those clients have business before the State. Recommends disclosure of all direct referrals of business to legislators or their firms from lobbyists and those they represent. • More Transparency in Legislative Sponsorship of Discretionary Funding:  Recommends greater transparency so that the public will know which legislators are sponsoring what public projects. • Tough New Consequences for Corruption: Tough new penalties for violating the public trust, including sentencing enhancements for corruption offenses and other offenses, like larceny, when they are committed against the state by public officials. • Strong collateral consequences that permanently bar those convicted of public corruption crimes from serving in a public office, registering as a government lobbyist, or obtaining government contracts.
  • BOOST ANTI-BRIBERY LAWS Reform the Bribery Statute: Bribery is the most blatant form of public corruption, yet our laws make public servant bribery incredibly hard to prosecute. The Commission recommends: •Ending New York’s “agreement or understanding” requirement for public servant bribery, and bringing the state’s bribery law into line with federal law, the laws of 48 other states, and the state’s labor, sports, and commercial bribery laws. •Lowering the dollar threshold for bribery of a public official – a $5,000 bribe is still a bribe, and the law should reflect that. •Creating a new offense, failure to report bribery, to hold all elected officials to a high standard of integrity and create leverage for bribery prosecutors. Prohibit Undisclosed Self-Dealing by Public Officials: State laws do not do enough to discourage self-dealing behavior by elected officials – like a public servant steering a state contract to a company she or a family member secretly owns. The Commission recommends a new criminal offense of “Undisclosed Self-Dealing” to help combat corrupt behavior by public servants.
  • OUTLINE OF NYS SYSTEM • Essentially unlimited campaign spending • Independent expenditure campaigns can operate outside of disclosure requirements • Highest limits of any state that has limits. • Loopholes, e.g. LLC, personal use • Weak disclosure requirements (and an out-of-date electronic disclosure system) • Essentially allows use of campaign funds for personal purposes. • Essentially non-existent enforcement 03/25/14 NYPIRG 19
  • 03/25/14 NYPIRG 20
  • NEW YORK’S LIMITS COMPARED WITH THE NATION • Highest limits to statewide candidates of any state with limits (there are five states with no contribution limits). • Limits are significantly higher than federal limits. • Limits are much higher than the national averages [$7,762 for Gubernatorial candidates, $3,784 for State Senate, and $3,412 for State House]. • Unlimited “Soft Money” to Party Committees. 03/25/14 NYPIRG 21
  • NY’S CAMPAIGN FINANCE “LIMITS” Elective Office Primary (non-family) General (non-family) Statewide Dem $19,700 $41,100 Statewide Rep $13,675 $41,100 Statewide Others $6,500 $41,100 Senate $6,500 $10,300 Assembly $4,100 $4,100 Parties Hard money -- $102,300 Soft money – unlimited Personal annual aggregate $150,000 Corporate annual aggregate $5,000 Limited liability companies Treated as individuals, with each entity (even if affiliated) treated independently
  • TOP CATEGORIES OF SOURCES OF CONTRIBUTIONS TO LEGISLATIVE RACES 03/25/14 NYPIRG 23 • Businesses, trade associations, or other for-profit corporations: $38,185,687.27 • Individuals: $25,240,735.37 • Unions: $13,263,945.79
  • EXAMPLE OF INTEREST GROUP • Lobby firms donated over $2.3 million in the 2012 legislative election cycle. This figure is even higher when one includes donations from their employees. • In the first half of that two-year period alone, lobby firms, their PACs, and their employees directly donated $1,838,009.84 • 4% of the total money raised during this time. • Lobbyists working for retained firms donated nearly 70,000 times as much money per capita as other state residents. 03/25/14 NYPIRG 24
  • FEW NEW YORKERS MADE CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS • Less than 0.2% of New Yorkers made donations that were reported as contributions to candidates or legislative party committees (over $99). • Only 44,894 individuals were reported to have donated. • 40,381 of these individuals reported addresses in New York. 03/25/14 NYPIRG 25
  • EXAMPLE OF INDIVIDUAL GIVING • Real estate developer Leonard Litwin has given Governor Cuomo $800,000 at this point in the 2014 election cycle. • Often gives more than $1 million in a calendar year. In the six months between January 12 and July 11, 2013, Litwin was able to donate $1,064,809. 03/25/14 NYPIRG 26
  • MONEY FROM SMALL DONORS HAS DECREASED Level % in 2012 Level % in 2000 >=$10,000 28.83% >=$10,000 14.60% <$10,000, >$2,500 23.29% <$10,000, >$2,300 20.07% <=$2,499, >=$1,000 17.81% <=$2,300, >=$1,000 19.92% <$1,000, >=$250 18.99% <$1,000, >=$200 29.67% >$250 11.09% >$200, <=$100 11.91% <$100 3.84% 03/25/14 NYPIRG 27
  • SPENDING BY CANDIDATES ON THE GENERAL ELECTION BALLOT AND REPORTED 3RD PARTY SPENDING BENEFITING THEM Senate Assembly Democrats $19,096,121.72 29,596,026.04 Republicans $42,320,138.78 $11,054,446.12 03/25/14 NYPIRG 28
  • CAMPAIGN SPENDING FOR GOVERNOR’S RACE Candidate Money Raised Up To 11 Days Prior to Election Cuomo (Won 62%) $34,758,847.95 Paladino (Lost 34%) $9,739,613.21 Money In Bank As Of 11 Days Prior to Election Cuomo $12 million Paladino $130,758 03/25/14 NYPIRG 29
  • CASE STUDY: CAMPAIGN DOLLARS INFLUENCING LEGISLATION. • Film and TV industry gives $900,000, with $290,000 to Gov Cuomo, (2010 and 2013) and gets big tax break extended (worth $420 million). • Credits cover shows (like Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show”) • $25,000 to Gov two months before decision this year to extend credit. 03/25/14 NYPIRG 30
  • UNCOMPETITIVE ELECTIONS • 140 of the 212 races in 2010, the winner outspent the loser by a margin of 10 to 1 or greater. • 25 of the 212 races were close, and the average victor got over 74% of the vote • Only 55 legislative incumbents beaten in general elections between 1982 and 2012 (around 3500 races). 03/25/14 NYPIRG 31
  • WHAT’S WRONG WITH NEW YORK’S ETHICS LAWS • “All right, just legally, you know, you know this is against the law, right?” former Assemblyman William Boyland Sr. on an FBI wiretap. • Moreland Commission argues that weaknesses in current laws make it too difficult to enforce. • Structural flaws in state ethics enforcement: JCOPE, LEC, SBOE • JCOPE allows for legislative veto of investigations, unwieldy commission structure, no ban on public officials serving, no revolving door on staff. Exempt from Open Meetings and Freedom of Information Laws. • LEC controlled by legislative leaders, also operates in secret. • SBOE found by Moreland Commission to be dysfunctional. • Unless “out-and-out stick it in [their] pocket and walk away, everything’s legal,” SBOE view on the personal use of campaign contributions.
  • PERSONAL USE OF CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS • Former state Senator Bruno used his campaign funds to purchase an in-ground pool cover, ostensibly because he held political party meetings at pool side. • In a typical year, legislators spend around half a million dollars on golf, $200,000 on new cars, $70,000 on flowers, and $30,000 on cigars. • Effectively, this means that legislators from districts in which they rarely see serious electoral challenges can treat their campaign donations as a way to boost their personal lifestyles. • Another practice that runs contrary to the spirit of the Election Law’s ban on personal use of campaign contributions is the widespread practice of spending these funds on criminal defense. Between 2004 and 2012, nearly $7 million was spent on this purpose.
  • 03/25/14 NYPIRG 34 SPECIAL INTERESTS • New York’s lax campaign finance and lobbying laws give powerful interests tremendous clout. • Campaign and lobbying spending has increased dramatically. • New York has the highest ratio of lobbyists to lawmakers in the nation. (31 to 1!) • No unique limits on lobbyists’ giving.
  • TOP LOBBY GROUPS, 2012 Organization Lobbying spending Committee to Save NY $4,192,952 Exxon Mobil $2,106,132 Major League Soccer $2,102,910 Greater NY Hospital Association $2,091,371 UFT $1,812,490 NYSUT $1,739,113 PEF $1,277,896 Genting NY $1,274,110 03/25/14 NYPIRG 36
  • 03/25/14 37 ADDITIONAL LOBBYING FACTS • 6,742 individual lobbyists • 4,202 clients • Around 200 – the number of Albany-based fundraisers during the legislative session (lawmakers are in town around 60 days and 40 nights). Who is the target audience?
  • THE GOVERNOR’S BUDGET PROPOSAL • Tracks Moreland Commission recommendations. • Expands disclosures of business relationships by lawmakers. • Expands authority of local District Attorneys. • Tightens bribery law prohibitions. • Requires campaign finance reforms: lower limits, better disclosures. • Establishes a so-called “independent” election law counsel. • Creates a voluntary system of public financing for legislative elections in 2016 and statewide elections in 2018.
  • THE GOVERNOR’S LEVERAGE • As the result of court decisions and constitutional powers, the executive has tremendous leverage in budget negotiations. • Only the governor can introduce budget bills, thus if the budget is late the governor can propose a one year extender of his budget and the legislature could be forced to choose between approving his budget or shutting down the government. • The governor’s greatest leverage is in the language of budget bills that appropriate monies for state projects. Governor has proposed the creation of a new election law counsel in his public protection budget. • The governor has less leverage in “Article VII” budget bills, which offer programmatic changes to the budget. The governor’s reform package is included in these bills.
  • A CRITIQUE OF THE GOVERNOR’S PLAN • The governor’s proposed election law counsel is his appointee, with the consent of the Senate. Thus, a gubernatorial appointee would have the power to investigate legislative campaign finance practices. • His plan allows very high campaign contributions, for example $25,000 to party committees (over $100,000 now) and though it tightens the LLC loophole, it would exist in the same way as corporate limits. • His plan is in the Article VII bills, thus allowing the legislature to reject it. Although his proposal for an election law counsel (to enforce the law) is included in the appropriation language as well. Much more difficult for the legislature to change it.
  • REACTIONS BY THE LEGISLATURE? • In Assembly: Public financing included in one house budget resolution (tracks Speaker Silver’s legislation). Approved by the house yesterday. • In Senate: Co-Leader Klein is supportive of public financing, Co-Leader Skelos and his Republican conference are opposed to public financing.
  • WHAT HAPPENS NEXT • One house budget bills to be debated, reconciled. It is expected that the budget will be completed by March 31. • Big holes will exist, even if successful. For example, no one is advancing reforms of the state’s oversight of ethics and lobbying laws. • If not, likely to be an issue in November. • Unclear what the Moreland Commission will be doing. Currently, continuing its investigations.
  • CONTACT INFORMATION • www.nypirg.org • Office phone: 518 436-0876 x257 • Email: blairhorner@nypirg.org • Twitter: @blairhorner