Letter to Candidates for Governor

Committee to Reform the State Constitution

Post Office Box 31

Bedford, NY 10506

 

                                                                                                            April 16, 2018

 

 

Mr. Andrew Cuomo

Candidate for Governor of the State of New York

Andrew Cuomo 2018, Inc.

1 Pallisar Road

Irvington-On-Hudson, NY 10533

 

Mr. John DeFrancisco

Candidate for Governor of the State of New York

DeFrancisco for New York

4310 Cheyenne Circle

Syracuse, NY 13215

 

Mr. Joe Holland

Joe Holland for Governor

58 Edgecomb Avenue

New York, New York 10030

 

Mr. Marc Molinaro

Candidate for Governor of the State of New York

Molinaro for New York

75 Glen Ridge Road

Red Hook, New York 12571

 

Ms. Cynthia Nixon

Candidate for Governor of the State of New York

Cynthia for New York

137 Montague Street, Apt. 335

Brooklyn, New York 11201

 

Dear Candidates,

Please accept respectful greetings from the Committee to Reform the State Constitution, whose website address is www.committee2reform.org.  We are a non-partisan independent expenditure committee registered with the New York State Board of Elections to support voting reform, anti-corruption reform and court reform and to oppose candidates for state office who are unwilling to actively support needed reforms in these areas. 

The Committee has decided to focus on one issue in connection with the upcoming primary and general elections for Governor of the State of New York, in which you are all likely primary and/or general election candidates.  That issue is support of the anti-corruption constitutional amendment that the Committee, along with other groups, has framed (the “Anti-Corruption Amendment”).  It, together with the Memorandum in Support, is attached hereto and can also be found on our website. 

We leave it to the voters to judge the character and fitness of the candidates, but subject to their judgment that the candidates meet a basic standard in that regard, we think a candidate’s position on the Anti-Corruption Amendment should be a decisive factor in deciding whether to support that candidate. 

The Anti-Corruption Amendment would replace the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) and the Legislative Ethics Commission (LEC) with a single truly independent enforcement agency.  This change is needed because the JCOPE/LEC structure lacks the necessary non-partisan independence to be an effective enforcer of the State’s ethics and state workplace anti-harassment laws.

Unlike the Commission on Judicial Conduct established in Article VI of the New York Constitution, which has worked well, JCOPE is not made up of appointees from all three branches of state government.  Other state commissions include appointees of their Chief Judge, but the JCOPE/LEC structure does not.  Under the Anti-Corruption Amendment, a majority of the members of the new Commission would be appointed by the Judiciary, which is not disciplined by the Commission but by the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Moreover, unlike the Commission on Judicial Conduct, JCOPE does not operate by majority vote.  As few as two of the Governor’s appointees to the 14-member Commission can veto an investigation or a finding of violation.  JCOPE has no rule barring ex parte contact by a Commissioner with that Commissioner’s appointing authority, thereby enhancing the appearance and possibility of political control.  It has no power even to call for the termination of a state official or employee, and no power to impose any form of sanction on a member of the Legislature or a legislative employee.  JCOPE is not guaranteed secure funding, which guarantee is necessary to secure its independence.  As an enforcement mechanism, the JCOPE/LEC structure has accomplished nothing substantial to stem the epidemic of state government corruption in New York. 

We believe that a reasonable perception has developed that JCOPE is controlled by those it is supposed to regulate, including the Governor.  In addition to the signs of lack of independence mentioned above, this perception is fueled by the fact that the chair is appointed by the Governor and serves at his or her pleasure.  We believe that the Chair should be elected by the Commission. 

In all events, to overcome this reasonable perception and enhance the credibility of ethics enforcement in New York, candidates for Governor should in our judgment be willing to give up a degree of gubernatorial control and bind themselves and their administration to robust regulation by the new Commission, up to and including the point of being removed from office for egregious misconduct.  The Chief Judge can be removed by the Commission on Judicial Conduct subject to judicial review, and we see no reason why the statewide elected officials should not be subjected to similar consequences in extreme cases.  The proposal also accounts for the fact that they are elected by giving either house of the Legislature the power to override a censure or removal decision.

The Anti-Corruption Amendment would also transfer the administration of the State’s campaign finance laws to the new non-partisan and independent Commission instead of the New York State Board of Elections.  Large campaign contributions can be a potent source of conflicts of interest, and nearly half the states give the campaign finance responsibility to their ethics commission.

In order that we may decide what position to take with respect to your candidacy, please respond to these questions. 

  1. Will you actively support[1] a concurrent resolution substantially in the form of the Anti-Corruption Amendment? Yes/No
  2. If your answer to the above question is no, please specify any changes that would allow you to support the Anti-Corruption Amendment.

In deciding what position to take with respect to your candidacy, we will treat a failure to respond to these questions as evidencing opposition to an Anti-Corruption Amendment in any form.

Under New York law, we are required to advise the New York State Board of Elections whether we intend to oppose your candidacy.  We intend to do that within one week from receipt of all your responses or by May 14, whichever is earlier.  Accordingly, the deadline for your response is May 7.  You should email your response to response@committee2reform.info.   

Thank you,

Committee to Reform the State Constitution

 

By: __/S/_______________________, Manager

         Evan A. Davis

 

 

           

 

 

[1]  “Actively support” means a commitment to submit an amendment substantially in the form of the Anti-Corruption Amendment as a Governor’s Program Proposal and to place it near the top of the agenda at every leaders meeting until passed. 

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