Press Releases

 

 

PRESS RELEASE September 24, 2018 

Media Contact:

Betsy Vorce / 917.287.3122

 

 CLEAR MAJORITY OF DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES IN KEY ASSEMBLY RACES SUPPORT PUTTING ETHICS AND CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM IN THE STATE CONSTITUTION

 

New York, September 24, 2018. The Committee to Reform the State Constitution, www.committee2reform.org,  has completed its polling of candidates in key Assembly races in the November 6 election about their position on a constitutional amendment that is now pending in the Legislature,  the Anti-Corruption Amendment,  to better deter official misconduct and pay to play practices in New York State. 

 

The polling revealed that a clear majority, 71 percent, of the Democratic candidates in these races would actively support the Anti-Corruption Amendment while only 32 percent of the Republicans would  actively support that amendment.   It is noteworthy that seven Assembly Democratic candidates declined to commit to support whereas in the polling for key Senate races only one candidate, Kevin Thomas in District 9, declined to commit.   The Assembly has a large Democratic majority while the Senate is evenly divided so a lower percentage of Democratic support in the Assembly may not adversely affect the chances of the amendment being placed before the people after approval by two sessions of the Legislature. 

 

The Anti-Corruption Amendment would replace the existing, politically controlled, ethics bodies (the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE,  and the Legislative Ethics Commission,  or LEC) with a single, independent and non-partisan Commission on State Government Integrity.  It would have the power to impose a full range of potential sanctions on non-elected officials and to recommend to the Legislature the removal of elected officials. (In the poll of key Assembly races below, Assembly Member Montesano, a member of the LEC, has committed to co-sponsor the amendment which would abolish both JCOPE and the LEC for lack of independence.)

 

To help attack Albany’s pay to play culture and the conflicts of interest that culture creates, the Anti-Corruption Amendment would also transfer the State Board of Election’s campaign finance role to the Integrity Commission.  This transfer would be in accord with the practice of nearly half the states.  The amendment would further require the Integrity Commission to establish a separate unit to investigate and adjudicate sexual harassment complaints.

 

Unchecked power has a tendency to corrupt.  Recent corruption scandals, many of which have resulted in criminal convictions of powerful state officials who abused their power, show that New York State government is no exception.    The Committee believes that an independent ethics agency is needed to provide an independent check on state officials in order to protect the citizenry.   The current ethics bodies are politically controlled rather than independent.  They are “designed to fail” because 2 of 14 members can veto an investigation.    

 

In addition, recent corruption trials have highlighted pay to play practices that may not be illegal but create massive conflict of interest and allow state officials to use their official decision-making authority and control to leverage massive political contributions to themselves or their political committees.    These massive contributions make it nearly impossible to hold these officials accountable at the ballot box. 

 

Today campaign finance falls under the New York State Board of Elections, which is designed to insure the equal treatment of the two major political parties.  By transferring campaign finance to the Integrity Commission,  the focus is put on curtailing corrupting practices that harm the people even while serving major party interests.

 

Commented Evan Davis, manager of the Committee to Reform the State Constitution, “New York voters are now paying a significant corruption tax that falls disproportionately on typical New Yorkers.  Taxpayer money is wasted because sweetheart deals fueled by pay to play practices increase costs and cause unnecessary expenditures and tax breaks for the politically connected.    Moreover, corruption is a form of abuse of power where public officials put themselves above the law and put at risk the liberties of the people.”

 

The chart below summaries the results of the Committee’s polling to date.  

CC

Group Polled

Date of Press Release

Number Polled

Number  Committed to Support

Democrat

Republican

Other

Eight Democratic Primary contests involving former IDC members

7/18

16

16  Will Co-sponsor if elected

16

N/A

N/A

Attorney General (Eve, James, Moloney, Teachout, Wofford)

7/25

5

4

4

 

 

Governor (Cuomo, Nixon, Miner, Molinaro)

8/7

4

2

 

1

1

Key Senate Races

9/5

34

22  Will Co-sponsor if elected

17/18  [1]

5/16

 

Key Assembly Races (See chart below)

9/24

46

24 Will Co-Sponsor if elected

17 /24

7 /22

 

[1] Subsequent to the release of the poll candidate Monica Martinez committed to be a co-sponsor.

 

 

Most recently, candidates seeking the office of Member of the State Assembly in key races around the State were asked whether they supported and would become, if elected, a co-sponsor of a constitutional amendment substantially in the form of the Anti-Corruption Amendment. The following chart shows the results of that canvassing and the Committee’s recommendations to voters.  [1]

 

 

 

 

Assembly District

 

Incumbent Party

 

Candidate

 

Party

 

Response to Committee Inquiry

Recommendation for Voters Who Prioritize Fighting Corruption

 

Long Island

 

District 1

Suffolk   

 

D

Fred Thiele

D

Co-sponsor

 

Don’t Vote for O'Connor

Patrick O’Connor   

R

No Response

 

               District 2

                Suffolk

 

R

Rona Smith

D

Will Co-sponsor

Don’t Vote for Palumbo

Anthony Palumbo

R

No Response

               District 3

Suffolk

Open seat

 

          R

Clyde Parker

D

Will Co-sponsor

 

No preference

Joseph DeStefano

R

Will Co-sponsor

 

District 9

Nassau and Suffolk

 

D

Christine Pellegrino

 

D

No response

 

No Preference

Michael LiPetri

 

R

No response

 

District 12

Suffolk County

R

Avrum Rosen

 

D

Will Co-sponsor

 

No Preference

Andrew Raia

 

R

Will Co-sponsor

 

District 15

Nassau County

R

Allen Foley

D

 

Will Co-sponsor

 

 

No Preference

Michael Montesano

 

R

Will  Co-Sponsor

 

District 20

Nassau

 

 

D

 

Juan Vides

D

  No Response

 

No Preference

Melissa Miller

R

  No Response

District 21                   Nassau

 

R

Judy Griffin

D

No Response

No Preference

Brian Curran

R

 

No Response

 

New York City

 

District 23

Queens

 

D

Stacey  Pheffer Amato

 

D

Will Co-sponsor

 

Don’t Vote for Pecorino

Matthew Pecorino

 

R

No Response

 

District 46

Brooklyn

 

 

Vacant

Mathylde Frontus

D

Will Co-sponsor

 

Don’t Vote for Saperstein

Steven Saperstein

R

No Response

 

District 64

Staten Island

 

 

R

Adam Baumel

 

D

Will Co-sponsor

 

Don’t Vote Malliotakis

Nicole Malliotakis

R

No Response

 

Hudson Valley

 

District 99

Orange and Rockland

Open Seat

 

 

 

D

Matthew Rettig

D

Will Not Commit Before Election

 

Colin Schmidt

R

No Response

No Preference

 

District 106

Columbia and Dutchess

 

 

D

Didi Barrett

D

  No Response

 

No Preference

William Truitt

R

  No Response

 

Capital Region

 

District 107

Washington, Rensselear and Columbia

 

 

R

 

Tistrya Houghtling

D

Will Co-sponsor

 

 

No Preference

Jacob Ashby

R

Will Actively Support All Aspects Except  Wants All Appointments to be by the Judiciary [2]

District 111 Montogomery, Schenectady and Albany

D

 

Angelo Santabarbara

D

Co-sponsor

No Preference

Brian McGarry

R

Will Co-Sponsor

District 113           Saratoga and Washington

 

D

Carrie Woerner

D

Co-sponsor

Don’t Vote for Zegers

Morgan Zegers

R

Does Not Support Critical Features  [3]

               

 

 

 

Northern New York

District 116 Jefferson and Saint Lawrence

 

D

Addie Jenne

D

No Response

 

No Preference

 

Mark Walcyk

R

No Response

 

Central New York

District 119

Oneida and Herkimer

 

D

Marianne Buttenschon

 

D

No Response

 

No Preference

Dennis Bova

 

R

No Response

District 121

Madison, Oneida and Otsego

 

D

William Magee

 

D

No response

 

No Preference

John Salka

R

No response

District 126

Onondaga, Cortland, Chenango and Cayuga

 

R

Keith Batman

D

Will Co-sponsor

 

No Preference

Gary Finch

R

Will Co-sponsor

District 127

Onondaga

D

Al Stirpe

 

Co-sponsor

 

No preference

 

Nicholas Paro

 

Will Co-sponsor

 

Western New York

 

District 135  

Monroe

 

R

Andrew Gilchrist

D

Will Co-sponsor

 

Don’t Vote for Johns

Mark Johns

R

No response

 

District 147

Niagra

 

 

Karen McMahon

D

Will Co-sponsor

 

No Preference

R

Raymond Walter

R

Will Co-sponsor

Notes:

[1] Candidates were repeatedly advised that a failure to respond would be treated as opposition, and were sent successive drafts of this press release and invited to clarify their position before it was issued.

[2] While having a five member Commission appointed by each of the four Appellate Division Presiding Justices and the Chief Judge, a step which also requires constitutional amendment, has drawbacks, support for that method is not a sufficient reason to urge a negative vote for this candidate. 

[3] For example, does not support the abolition of the Legislative Ethics Commission by creating a single entity covering both the Legislative and Executive Branches, the transfer of campaign finance from the State Board of Elections to the Integrity Commission, a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for the failure to report misconduct, coverage of sexual harassment or an appointment model based on the Commission on Judicial Conduct, which has worked well. 

 

 

ABOUT THE COMMITTEE

 

The Committee to Reform the State Constitution, www.committee2reform.org, was formed this year to elect candidates for state office in New York who will advocate for needed reforms, particularly replacing the State’s ineffective, partisan and politically-controlled ethics and campaign finance enforcement mechanisms with a constitutionally established independent agency modeled on the Commission on Judicial Conduct, which has a track record of independence and effectiveness.  

 

BACKGROUND ON THE ANTI-CORRUPTION AMENDMENT

 

New York is the only state where the ethics commission does not operate by majority vote. Incredibly, two (2) of the Governor’s appointees to the 14-member JCOPE can veto an investigation or a finding of violation, as can three (3) of the appointees of the legislative leaders. The Integrity Commission created by the Anti-Corruption Amendment would operate by majority vote.

 

New York is also marked by its division of ethics enforcement responsibility. JCOPE can find a violation by executive branch officials or employees and impose a fine but only the LEC can find a violation by or fine a legislative branch official or employee. The LEC may reject JCOPE’s interpretation of the law. In all cases, discipline (admonishment, censure, demotion, suspension or removal) is left to the discretion of entity in which the official or employee works. The Integrity Commission would have full discipline authority over both branches except that the Legislature could overrule censure or removal of an elected official. .

 

Nearly half the states give the responsibility for enforcing the campaign finance laws to their ethics commission. New York needs to do the same because the State Board of Elections is controlled by the political parties and therefore is not sufficiently independent to enforce campaign finance laws designed to limit the pay-to-play culture.

 

Other key features of the Anti-Corruption Amendment include the following:

 

  • A majority of the members of the Commission would be appointed by a branch of government not regulated by the Commission.
  • Unlike JCOPE, where the person appointing a member can remove that member for what the appointing authority deems to be substantial neglect of duty, members of the Commission could be removed for cause only through a process by which a majority of the Commission votes to make an application for removal to the Court of Appeals.
  • Ex parte communications between Commission members and their appointing authorities and related staff would be barred, and no member could have held office, employment in state government or any political party or been engaged as a lobbyist in the three years prior to his or her appointment or during his or her term.
  • Transparency laws would apply equally to the executive and legislative branches.
  • All state officers and employees would have an ethical duty to report known misconduct to the Commission and would be protected against retaliation.
  • Sexual harassment would be barred as ethical misconduct.
  • The Integrity Commission would have full authority to sanction officers or employee of public authorities.

 

 

 

#####

 

 

PRESS RELEASE SEPTEMBER 5, 2018

 

21 OF THE CANDIDATES IN 16 KEY SENATE RACES SUPPORT SECURING INDEPENDENT ETHICS AND CAMPAIGN FINANCE ENFORCEMENT IN THE STATE CONSTITUTION

 

VOTERS URGED NOT TO VOTE FOR THOSE WHO WON’T COMMIT

 

Media Contact:

Betsy Vorce / 917.287.3122 

 

New York, NY – September 5, 2018   It is not possible to be committed to fighting corruption and Albany’s pay- to- play culture without supporting the creation of a new, truly independent enforcement body to replace the current “designed to fail” mechanism.   Without credible enforcement processes, ethics rules will not be taken seriously and thus will not achieve their potential to deter official misconduct.  

 

Equally, it is not possible to be committed to reducing the role of big campaign contributions in government decision making and leave campaign finance enforcement to the New York State Board of Elections.  The Board, controlled by the two major political parties, serves the fundraising interests of the political parties and not the interest of the voters of New York in curbing the corrupting role of big money in decisions that are fundamental to their welfare.

 

Both ethics and campaign finance enforcement need to be placed under a proposed new body, the State Government Integrity Commission.  Now pending in the Legislature is an Anti-Corruption Amendment to the State Constitution that would do just that.    It is modeled on the successful Commission on Judicial Conduct, and will provide independent and non-partisan enforcement through a body where a majority of members would be appointed by the Judiciary. The only way this needed reform will occur is through voter pressure at the ballot box.

 

Commented Evan Davis, manager of the Committee to Reform the State Constitution, “When we put ethics in the Constitution we give special meaning to the oath taken by every public official to support the Constitution of the State of New York.  And for elected officials, ethics enforcement goes hand in hand with the very concept of representative democracy so as to preserve a government of, by and for the people and not of, by and for those whom they elect."

 

Candidates seeking the office of State Senator in competitive races around the state were asked whether they supported and would become, if elected, a co-sponsor a constitutional amendment substantially in the form of the Anti-Corruption Amendment. The following chart shows the results of that canvassing and the Committee’s recommendations to voters. [1]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Senate District

 

Incumbent Party

 

Candidate

 

Party

Response to Committee Inquiry

Recommendation for Voters Who Prioritize Fighting Corruption

 

Long Island

 

District 3

Suffolk  County Open Seat

 

R

Monica Martinez

D

No Response

 

No Preference

Dean Murray

R

No Response

 

District 4

Suffolk County

 

         R

Lou D’Amaro

D

Will Co-sponsor

No Preference

 

Phil Boyle

R

Will Co-sponsor

 

District 5

Suffolk and Nassau Counties

 

 

R

 

Jim Gaughran

D

 

Will Co-sponsor

 

Don’t Vote for  Marcellino

Carl Marcellino

R

Opposes replacing JCOPE and LEC

 

District 6  Nassau County

 

 

R

Kemp Hannon

R

Will Co-sponsor

 

Don’t Vote for  Thomas

 

Andrew Grover

D

 

Will Co-sponsor

Kevin Thomas

D

 

No Response

 

District 7

Nassau County

 

R

Anna Kaplan

 

D

Will Co-sponsor

 

Don’t Vote for Phillips

Elaine Phillips

 

R

Will Discuss

 

District 8

Suffolk and Nassau Counties

 

 

D

John Brooks

D

Will Co-sponsor

 

Don’t Vote for Pravato

Jeff Pravato

R

No Response

 

District 9

Nassau County

 

D

Todd Kaminsky

D

Will Co-sponsor

 

Don’t Vote for Becker

Fran Becker

R

Will Discuss

 

 

 

Senate District

 

Incumbent Party

 

Candidate

 

Party

 

Response to Committee Inquiry

Recommendation for Voters Who Prioritize Fighting Corruption

 

Hudson Valley

 

District 39

Orange, Rockland and Ulster Counties

Open Seat

 

 

R

James Skoufis

D

Will Co-Sponsor

 

 

 

Don’t Vote for Basile

Tom Basile

R

Mischaracterizes proposal as adding a new layer when it in fact replaces the existing

 

District 41

Dutchess and Putnam Counties

 

 

R

Karen Smythe

D

  Will Co-sponsor

 

Don’t Vote for Serino

Sue Serino

R

  No Response

 

District 42

Orange, Sullivan, Delaware and Ulster Counties Open Seat

 

 

R

Pramilla Malick

D

 

Will Co-sponsor

 

 

Don’t Vote for  Rabbitt

Jen Metzger

D

Will Co-sponsor

Annie Rabbitt

R

No response

 

Capital Region

 

District 43

Saratoga, Washington, Rensselaer and Columbia Counties

Open Seat

 

R

Aaron Gladd

D

 

Will Co-sponsor

 

 

 

No Preference

 

Daphne Jordan

R

 

Will Co-sponsor

District 46 Montgomery, Schenectady, Albany, Greene Counties

 

R

Pat Strong

D

Will Co-sponsor

 

No Preference

George Amedore

R

Will Co-Sponsor

 

 

 

Senate District

 

Incumbent Party

 

Candidate

 

Party

 

Response to Committee Inquiry

Recommendation for Voters Who Prioritize Fighting Corruption

 

Central New York

District 50

Onondaga and Cayuga Counties

Open Seat

R

John Mannion

D

Will Co-sponsor

 

No Preference

Bob Antonacci

R

Will Co-sponsor

 

Western New York

District 60

Erie County

R

Carima El-Behairy

 

D

Will Co-sponsor

 

Don’t Vote for Jacobs

Chris Jacobs

 

R

No response

District 61

Erie, Genesee and Monroe Counties

R

Joan Seamans

 

D

Will Co-sponsor

 

Don’t Vote for Ranzenhofer

 

Michael Ranzenhofer

 

R

No Response

 

Other High Profile

District 17

Kings County

Democrat Caucuses with Republicans

Simcha Felder

 

No Response

 

Don’t Vote for  Felder

Blake Morris

D

Will Co-sponsor

             

  

 

ABOUT THE COMMITTEE

 

The Committee to Reform the State Constitution, www.committee2reform.org, was formed this year to elect candidates for state office in New York who will advocate for needed reforms, particularly replacing the State’s ineffective, partisan and politically-controlled ethics and campaign finance enforcement mechanisms with a constitutionally established independent agency modeled on the Commission on Judicial Conduct, which has a track record of independence and effectiveness. 

 

The only way needed reform will occur is through voter pressure at the ballot box. The Committee is registered as an independent expenditure committee with the New York State Board of Elections to urge voters to oppose candidates who are unwilling to support the Anti-Corruption Amendment or a substantially equivalent reform. The Committee is canvassing candidates for state-wide and legislative office to determine their position on the Anti-Corruption Amendment.

 

In prior candidate surveys, all 16 candidates in the September 13 primary races involving members of the former independent democratic conference, all four of the candidates in the Democratic Party primary for Attorney General and two of the four candidates for Governor (Miner, Molinaro) committed to support the Anti-Corruption Amendment.   Gubernatorial candidates Cuomo and Nixon and AG candidate Wofford gave no response. 

 

BACKGROUND ON THE ANTI-CORRUPTION AMENDMENT

 

New York is the only state where the ethics commission does not operate by majority vote. Incredibly, two (2) of the Governor’s appointees to the 14-member JCOPE can veto an investigation or a finding of violation, as can three (3) of the appointees of the legislative leaders. The Integrity Commission created by the Anti-Corruption Amendment would operate by majority vote.

 

New York is also marked by its division of ethics enforcement responsibility. JCOPE can find a violation by executive branch officials or employees and impose a fine but only the LEC can find a violation by or fine a legislative branch official or employee. The LEC may reject JCOPE’s interpretation of the law. In all cases, discipline (admonishment, censure, demotion, suspension or removal) is left to the discretion of entity in which the official or employee works. The Integrity Commission would have full discipline authority over both branches except that the Legislature could overrule censure or removal of an elected official. A constitutional amendment is needed to create a single enforcement body with full sanctioning power.

 

Nearly half the states give the responsibility for enforcing the campaign finance laws to their ethics commission. New York needs to do the same because the State Board of Elections is controlled by the political parties and therefore is not sufficiently independent to enforce campaign finance laws designed to limit the pay-to-play culture.

 

Ethics and other rules barring official misconduct are only as good as the mechanism available to enforce them. Without an adequate enforcement mechanism these rules exist only on paper without real world force or effect. “Paper” rules do nothing to combat what far too many see as a culture of corruption and pay-to-play in Albany.

 

Other key features of the Anti-Corruption Amendment include the following:

 

  • A majority of the members of the Commission would be appointed by a branch of government not regulated by the Commission.
  • Unlike JCOPE, where the person appointing a member can remove that member for what the appointing authority deems to be substantial neglect of duty, members of the Commission could be removed for cause only through a process by which a majority of the Commission votes to make an application for removal to the Court of Appeals.
  • Ex parte communications between Commission members and their appointing authorities and related staff would be barred, and no member could have held office, employment in state government or any political party or been engaged as a lobbyist in the three years prior to his or her appointment or during his or her term.
  • Transparency laws would apply equally to the executive and legislative branches.
  • All state officers and employees would have an ethical duty to report known misconduct to the Commission and would be protected against retaliation.
  • Sexual harassment would be barred as ethical misconduct.
  • The Integrity Commission would have full authority to sanction officers or employee of public authorities.

 

 

[1] Candidates were repeatedly advised that a failure to respond would be treated as opposition, and were sent a draft of this press release and invited to clarify their position before it was issued.

 

#####

 

 

Media Contact:

Betsy Vorce / 917.287.3122

 

REFORM COMMITTEE URGES VOTERS TO WITHHOLD SUPPORT FOR ANDREW CUOMO AND CYNTHIA NIXON BASED ON THEIR FAILURE TO ACTIVELY EMBRACE CRITICAL ANTI-CORRUPTION REFORM

 

New York, NY – August 7, 2018   Establishing independent, non-partisan and effective state enforcement against official misconduct is an essential step to cleaning up the culture of corruption and pay-to-play in New York State Government. This culture has resulted not only in persistent and recent convictions for abusing government office for personal gain, United States v. Silver (May, 2018), United States v. Percoco (March, 2018), United States v. Kaleyeros (July, 2018), United States v. Skelos (July, 2018), but also in billions of wasted taxpayer dollars serving the inflated and expensive desires of entrenched interests and big contributors. For example, New York State taxpayers are overpaying billions for subway construction due to sweetheart deals fostered by pay-to-play political contributions and the assurance to those who play ball of a nice job with a vendor upon “retirement.”

 

The Anti-Corruption Amendment, modeled on the successful Commission on Judicial Conduct, will provide independent and non-partisan enforcement through a State Government Integrity Commission, a majority of whose members would be appointed by the Judiciary. The Commission would also take over the regulation of campaign contributions from the State Board of Elections, which is entirely controlled by the two major political parties. The Amendment has been introduced in both Houses of the Legislature (S8309, A10651). In earlier canvassing, the Committee determined that the Anti-Corruption Amendment is supported by four of the five Attorney General Candidates (all except candidate Wofford) and by all 16 candidates in high profile State Senate races where incumbent members of the former Independent Democratic Conference are being challenged by insurgents. The Committee is continuing its canvassing of candidates in state-wide and legislative races.

 

Legally, the Governor has no power to block a constitutional amendment; the Constitution leaves it to the people to decide in a referendum. It is highly desirable, however, that the Governor actively support the proposal. And in order to actively support the proposal, the Governor must be willing to relinquish his/her control over the current enforcement mechanism which shields the Governor and his/her appointees from close scrutiny.

 

Candidates seeking the office of Governor were asked whether they supported and would become, if elected, a strong proponent of the Anti-Corruption Amendment. The following chart shows the results of that canvassing.

 

Candidate

Party

Position

Andrew Cuomo

Democratic

Won’t Say [1]

Stephanie Miner

Independent

Yes

Marc Molinaro

Republican

Yes

Cynthia Nixon

Democratic

Won’t Say

 

Based on these responses, the Committee will urge voters to consider lack of active support for the Anti-Corruption Amendment as a good reason to withhold support from, and not vote for, Andrew Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon.

 

Noted Evan Davis, Manager of the Committee, “Our decision to urge voters who care about cleaning up state government to oppose Andrew Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon is reinforced by other evidence of their lack of interest in fighting corruption. Candidate Nixon proposes to abolish the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) by executive order and replace it with a Moreland Act Commission. However, not only does the Governor lack the power to abolish JCOPE, which was created by statute, a Moreland Act Commission is even more controlled by the Governor than is JCOPE. As Governor Cuomo said when he disbanded the Moreland Commission he appointed to investigate corruption: ‘It’s my commission. My subpoena power, my Moreland Commission. I can appoint it, I can disband it. I appoint you, I can un-appoint you tomorrow.’

 

As for Candidate Andrew Cuomo, he has not even proposed reform of the current plainly flawed enforcement mechanisms. His website cites his leadership in ten areas, none of which concern the culture of corruption and pay-to- play in Albany. While the defendants in the Percoco trial used ten LLC’s to contribute $232,500 to the Cuomo campaign, the Governor has abandoned work to end the LLC loophole claiming it was impossible to accomplish due to Republican opposition. The Republican candidate for Governor, however, favors closing the LLC loophole. The Governor is a prodigious fundraiser who as of July has raised over $85 million since being elected Governor while all his opponents in primary and general elections raised in the same period just $11 million. Effective campaign finance reform to reduce the conflict of interest created by large contributions as facilitated by the transfer of campaign finance jurisdiction to the Integrity Commission, will reduce this extreme disparity.”

 

ABOUT THE COMMITTEE

 

The Committee to Reform the State Constitution, www.committee2reform.org, was formed this year to elect candidates for state office in New York who will advocate for needed reforms, particularly replacing the State’s ineffective, partisan and politically-controlled ethics and campaign finance enforcement mechanisms with a constitutionally established independent agency modeled on the Commission on Judicial Conduct, which has a track record of independence and effectiveness.

 

 

The only way needed reform will occur is through voter pressure at the ballot box. The Committee is registered as an independent expenditure committee with the New York State Board of Elections to urge voters to oppose candidates who are unwilling to support the Anti-Corruption Amendment or a substantially equivalent reform. The Committee is canvassing candidates for state-wide and legislative office to determine their position on the Anti-Corruption Amendment.

 

BACKGROUND ON THE ANTI-CORRUPTION AMENDMENT

 

New York is the only state where the ethics commission does not operate by majority vote. Incredibly, two (2) of the Governor’s appointees to the 14-member JCOPE can veto an investigation or a finding of violation, as can three (3) of the appointees of the legislative leaders. The Integrity Commission created by the Anti-Corruption Amendment would operate by majority vote.

 

New York is also marked by its division of ethics enforcement responsibility. JCOPE can find a violation by executive branch officials or employees and impose a fine but only the LEC can find a violation by or fine a legislative branch official or employee. The LEC may reject JCOPE’s interpretation of the law. In all cases, discipline (admonishment, censure, demotion, suspension or removal) is left to the discretion of entity in which the official or employee works. The Integrity Commission would have full discipline authority over both branches except that the Legislature could overrule censure or removal of an elected official. A constitutional amendment is needed to create a single enforcement body with full sanctioning power.

 

Nearly half the states give the responsibility for enforcing the campaign finance laws to their ethics commission. New York needs to do the same because the State Board of Elections is controlled by the political parties and therefore is not sufficiently independent to enforce campaign finance laws designed to limit the pay-to-play culture.

 

Ethics and other rules barring official misconduct are only as good as the mechanism available to enforce them. Without an adequate enforcement mechanism these rules exist only on paper without real world force or effect. “Paper” rules do nothing to combat what far too many see as a culture of corruption and pay-to-play in Albany.

 

Other key features of the Anti-Corruption Amendment include the following:

 

  • A majority of the members of the Commission would be appointed by a branch of government not regulated by the Commission.
  • Unlike JCOPE, where the person appointing a member can remove that member for what the appointing authority deems to be substantial neglect of duty, members of the Commission could be removed for cause only through a process by which a majority of the Commission votes to make an application for removal to the Court of Appeals.
  • Ex parte communications between Commission members and their appointing authorities and related staff would be barred, and no member could have held office, employment in state government or any political party or been engaged as a lobbyist in the three years prior to his or her appointment or during his or her term.
  • Transparency laws would apply equally to the executive and legislative branches.
  • All state officers and employees would have an ethical duty to report known misconduct to the Commission and would be protected against retaliation.
  • Sexual harassment would be barred as ethical misconduct.
  • The Integrity Commission would have full authority to sanction officers or employee of public authorities.

 

 

[1] Candidates were repeatedly advised that a failure to respond would be treated as opposition, and were sent a draft of this press release and invited to clarify their position before it was issued.

 

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                                                                                                                                                                                                Media Contact: Betsy Vorce

                                                                                                                                                                                                  917.287.3122

 

REFORM COMMITTEE ANNOUNCES POSITIONS OF CANDIDATES FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL

 

New York, NY -- July 25, 2018   The Committee to Reform the State Constitution, www.committee2reform.org, is canvassing candidates for state office about their support for an amendment to the New York State Constitution (the Anti-Corruption Amendment) that would replace the current politically controlled bodies for ethics enforcement (the Joint Commission on Public Ethics-- JCOPE,  and the Legislative Ethics Commission--LEC) with a single independent body with broad sanctioning power.  A majority of the new body’s members would be appointed by the judiciary.  Following the lead of nearly half the states, campaign finance jurisdiction would be transferred to the new body from the New York State Board of Elections, whose members are chosen by the two major political parties.

 

The Committee believes that establishing the independent and effective enforcement is an essential step to cleaning up the culture of corruption and pay-to-play in State Government.  This culture has resulted not only in persistent and recent convictions for abusing government office for personal gain, United States v. Silver (May, 2018), United States v. Percoco (March, 2018), United States v. Kaleyeros (July, 2018), United States v. Skelos (July, 2018), but also in billions of wasted taxpayer dollars serving the inflated and expensive desires  of entrenched interests and big contributors.

 

The 10 defendants convicted in corruption trials since the beginning of the year include a Speaker of the New York State Assembly, a Majority Leader of the New York State Senate, the fourth ranking member of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s staff and one of his closest confidants, a corrupt lobbyist with close ties to the Governor and many of his top staff,  a senior official of the State University of New York, the Senior Vice President of a leading North American power plant contractor, the President and General Counsel of one of the leading upstate real estate development companies and the CEO of western New York’s largest construction group.

 

As noted by the New York Times in an article following the guilty verdicts in the Dean Skelos case, the convictions, “fed the perception that the culture of ethical neglect in the State capitol had reached its nadir.”

  

The Anti-Corruption Amendment has been introduced in both Houses of the Legislature.  In earlier canvassing the Committee determined that the Anti-Corruption Amendment is supported by all 16 candidates in State Senate races where incumbent members of the former Independent Democratic Conference are being challenged by insurgents.

 

As the chief legal officer of the state, the Attorney General needs to play an important role in fighting corruption.  The Attorney General’s vigorous support for the Anti-Corruption Amendment will likely carry weight with the Legislature, and such support is therefore important. 

 

Candidates were asked whether they supported and would become, if elected, a strong proponent of the Anti-Corruption Amendment.  The following chart shows the results of that canvassing. 

 

 

Candidate

Party

Support for Anti-Corruption Amendment

 

 

 

Leecia Eve

 

Tish James

 

Sean Maloney

 

Zephyr Teachout

 

Keith Wofford

 

 

 

Democratic

 

Democratic

 

Democratic

 

Democratic

 

Republican

 

 

 

Yes

 

Yes

 

Yes

 

Yes

 

Won’t Say [1]

 

 

 

 

Based on these responses, the Committee will urge voters to consider lack of support for the Anti-Corruption Amendment as an excellent reason to withhold support from, and not vote for, Keith Wofford.  

 

                Noted Evan Davis, manager of the Committee,   “While all the candidates for Attorney General claim they want to fight corruption, only those willing to help establish a strong and independent ethics system where breach of the public trust, sexual harassment and other kinds of official misconduct are taken seriously should be supported.  What we have now is designed to fail, and until it is replaced,  the culture of corruption, abuse of power and pay-to-play in Albany won’t change and billions more of wasted taxpayer dollars will go down the drain.”   

                                                                                                                                                                                 

ABOUT THE COMMITTEE

 

The Committee to Reform the State Constitution, www.committee2reform.org, was formed this year to elect candidates for state office in New York who will advocate for needed reforms, particularly replacing the State’s ineffective, partisan and politically-controlled ethics and campaign finance enforcement mechanisms with a constitutionally established independent agency modeled on the Commission on Judicial Conduct, which has a track record of independence and effectiveness.

 

The only way needed reform will occur is through voter pressure at the ballot box.  The Committee is registered as an independent expenditure committee with the New York State Board of Elections to urge voters to oppose candidates who are unwilling to support the Anti-Corruption Amendment or a substantially equivalent reform.  The Committee is canvassing candidates for state-wide and legislative office to determine their position on the Anti-Corruption Amendment.

 

BACKGROUND ON THE ANTI-CORRUPTION AMENDMENT 

 

New York is the only state where the ethics commission does not operate by majority vote.  Incredibly,  two (2) of the Governor’s appointees to 14 member JCOPE can veto and investigation or a finding of violation, as can three (3) of the appointees of the legislative leaders.  The Integrity Commission created by the Anti-Corruption Amendment would operate by majority vote.

 

New York is also marked by its division of ethics enforcement responsibility.   JCOPE can find a violation by executive branch officials or employees and impose a fine but only the LEC can find a violation by or fine an legislative branch official or employee.  The LEC may reject JCOPE’s interpretation of the law.  In all cases, discipline (admonishment, censure, demotion, suspension or removal) is left to the discretion of entity in which the official or employee works.   The Integrity Commission would have full discipline authority over both branches except that the Legislature could overrule censure[2] or removal of an elected official.   A constitutional amendment is needed to create a single enforcement body with full sanctioning power.

 

Nearly half the states give the responsibility for enforcing the campaign finance laws to their ethics commission.  New York needs to do the same because the State Board of Elections is controlled by the political parties and therefore is not sufficiently independent to enforce campaign finance laws designed to limit the pay-to-play culture.

  

Ethics and other rules barring official misconduct are only as good as the mechanism available to enforce them.  Without an adequate enforcement mechanism these rules exist only on paper without real world force or effect.  “Paper” rules do nothing to combat what far too many see as a culture of corruption and pay-to-play in Albany.

 

Other key features of the Anti-Corruption Amendment include the following:

  

  • A majority of the members of the Commission would be appointed by a branch of government not regulated by the Commission.
  • Unlike JCOPE, where the person appointing a member can remove that member for what the appointing authority deems to be substantial neglect of duty, members of the Commission could be removed for cause only through a process by which a majority of the Commission votes to make an application for removal to the Court of Appeals.
  • Ex parte communications between Commission members and their appointing authorities and related staff would be barred, and no member could have held office, employment in state government or any political party or been engaged as a lobbyist in the three years prior to his or her appointment or during his or her term. 
  • Transparency laws would apply equally to the executive and legislative branches.
  • All state officers and employees would have an ethical duty to report known misconduct to the Commission and would be protected against retaliation.
  • Sexual harassment would be barred as ethical misconduct.
  • The Integrity Commission would have full authority to sanction officers or employee of public authorities.

 

[1] Candidates were advised that a failure to respond would be taken as a lack of support for the Anti-Corruption Amendment.

[2] Censure entails the obligation of the violator at his or her own expense to inform all applicable voters that he or she has been censured.

#######

 

 

                                                                                                                                                           Media Contact: Betsy Vorce

                                                                                                                                                                                            917.287.3122

 

ALL CANDIDATES IN PRIMARY RACES CHALLENGING MEMBERS OF THE NOW DEFUNCT INDEPENDENT DEMOCRATIC CONFERENCE (IDC) COMMIT TO SUPPORT AND CO-SPONSOR THE ANTI-CORRUPTION AMENDMENT

 

 New York, NY -- July 18, 2018       The Committee to Reform the State Constitution, www.committee2reform.org, was formed this year to elect candidates for state office in New York who will advocate for needed reforms, particularly replacing the State’s ineffective, partisan and politically-controlled ethics and campaign finance enforcement mechanisms with a constitutionally established independent agency modeled on the Commission on Judicial Conduct, which has a track record of independence and effectiveness.  A constitutional amendment to achieve this goal, the Anti-Corruption Amendment, has been introduced in both Houses of the Legislature, S. 8309 (Sen. Krueger), A. 10651 (M of A Carroll).

 

            The Committee believes that establishing the independent and effective enforcement that is now nearly entirely absent is an essential step to cleaning up the culture of corruption and pay-to-play in State Government.  This culture has resulted not only in persistent and recent convictions for abusing government office for personal gain, United States v. Silver (May, 2018), United States v. Percoco (March, 2018), United States v. Kaleyeros (July, 2018), United States v. Skelos (July, 2018) but also in billions of wasted taxpayer dollars serving the inflated and expensive desires  of entrenched interests and big contributors.  

 

The only way needed reform will occur is through voter pressure at the ballot box.  The Committee is registered as an independent expenditure committee with the New York State Board of Elections to urge voters to oppose candidates who are unwilling to support the Anti-Corruption Amendment or a substantially equivalent reform.  The Committee is canvasing candidates for state-wide and legislative office to determine their position on the Anti-Corruption Amendment.

 

The Committee has started its canvassing effort with the eight primary races where candidates are challenging former IDC members, the breakaway group of Democrats who until recently collaborated with Senate Republicans.  Candidates were asked whether they supported and would if elected co-sponsor the Anti-Corruption Amendment.  As shown in the table below, all the candidates surveyed made that commitment.

 

Evan Davis, the Manager of the Committee to Reform the State Constitution and a former chief counsel to Governor Mario Cuomo, said, “We are most pleased that all these candidates are committed to fighting corruption and are willing to rally around a specific proposal.   Frankly, because the Anti-Corruption Amendment would make fundamental changes, we had not expected unanimity.   We are in the process of soliciting the views of the candidates for state-wide office and will share those results when the process is complete.”

 

 

Senate District

Incumbent

 

Support for Anti-Corruption Amendment

Challenger

Support for Anti-Corruption Amendment

 

 

 

 

 

 

District 11, Queens

Tony Avella

 

Yes

John Liu

Yes

District 13, Queens

Jose Peralta

 

Yes

Jessica Ramos

Yes

District 20, Brooklyn

Jesse Hamilton

 

Yes

Zellnor Myrie

Yes

District 23, Staten Island/

Brooklyn

 

Diane Savino

 

Yes

Jasmine Robinson

Yes

District 31, Manhattan

Marisol Alcantara

 

Yes

Robert Jackson

Yes

District 34, Bronx

Jeff Klein

 

Yes

Alesandra Biaggi

Yes

District 38, Rockland

David Carlucci

 

Yes

Julie Goldberg

Yes

 

 

 

 

 

 

District 53, Onondaga/Madison/Oneida

David Valesky

 

Yes

Rachel May

Yes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

BACKGROUND ON THE ANTI-CORRUPTION AMENDMENT

 

New York is the only state where the ethics commission does not operate by majority vote.  Incredibly two (2) of the Governor’s appointees to 14 member JCOPE can veto and investigation or a finding of violation, as can three (3) of the appointees of the legislative leaders.  The Integrity Commission created by the Anti-Corruption Amendment would operate by majority vote.

 

New York is also marked by its division of ethics enforcement responsibility.   JCOPE can find a violation by executive branch officials or employees and impose a fine but only the LEC can find a violation by or fine a legislative branch official or employee.  The LEC may reject JCOPE’s interpretation of the law.  In all cases, discipline (admonishment, censure, demotion, suspension or removal) is left to the discretion of entity in which the official or employee works.   The Integrity Commission would have full discipline authority over both branches except that the Legislature could overrule censure[1] or removal of an elected official.   A constitutional amendment is needed to create a single enforcement body with full sanctioning power.

 

Nearly half the states give the responsibility for enforcing the campaign finance laws to their ethics commission.  New York needs to do the same because the State Board of Elections is controlled by the political parties and therefore is not sufficiently independent to enforce campaign finance laws designed to limit the pay-to-play culture.

 

Ethics and other rules barring official misconduct are only as good as the mechanism available to enforce them.  Without an adequate enforcement mechanism these rules exist only on paper without real world force or effect.  “Paper” rules do nothing to combat what far too many see as a culture of corruption and pay-to-play in Albany.

Other key features of the Anti-Corruption Amendment include the following:  

  • A majority of the members of the Commission would be appointed by a branch of government not regulated by the Commission.
  • Unlike JCOPE, where the person appointing a member can remove that member for what the appointing authority deems to be substantial neglect of duty, members of the Commission could be removed for cause only through a process by which a majority of the Commission votes to make an application for removal to the Court of Appeals.
  • Ex parte communications between Commission members and their appointing authorities and related staff would be barred, and no member could have held office, employment in state government or any political party or been engaged as a lobbyist in the three years prior to his or her appointment or during his or her term. 
  • Transparency laws would apply equally to the executive and legislative branches.
  • All state officers and employees would have an ethical duty to report known misconduct to the Commission and would be protected against retaliation.
  • Sexual harassment would be barred as ethical misconduct.
  • The Integrity Commission would have full authority to sanction officers or employee of public authorities.

 

 

[1] Censure entails the obligation of the violator at his or her own expense to inform all applicable voters that he or she has been censured.

 

 

Albany Times Union   April 15, 2018

COMMENTARY

Voters must demand a strong ethics watchdog

By Evan Davis

We can’t pretend New York doesn’t have a serious corruption problem. Polling shows that more than 80 percent of New Yorkers think it does. And that was before the verdict came down in the trial that convicted Joe Percoco for selling the authority and influence of his office for personal benefit.

Percoco, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, joins a very long list of leading state officials who have become enmeshed in official corruption scandals.

What should be done? For starters, elect leaders who will beef up ethics enforcement, because we know that vigorous and independent ethics enforcement deters corruption. This is the case largely because an ethics violation is much easier to prove than a criminal violation yet still has serious consequences.

Criminal bribery and extortion are hard to prove not only because criminal liability must be established beyond a reasonable doubt and the bribe must be shown to be in exchange for a specific “official act,” but also because the likely witnesses to the corrupt transaction are themselves corrupt. This problem was starkly illustrated by the difficulties for the Percoco prosecution presented by their star witness, Todd Howe — whose credibility was damaged in the middle of the trial when he was arrested for allegedly trying to rip off the hotel he was staying at.

Ethics laws, on the other hand, do not require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. These laws apply a “fiduciary breach of the public trust” standard of candor, freedom from conflict of interest and avoidance of self-dealing, and violations can be established based on conduct alone without the need for witnesses or documents establishing criminal intent.

Another important role of ethics enforcement is that ethical misconduct investigations are likely to uncover related criminal activity, which must then be referred to criminal prosecutors. Percoco, for example, in his 2014 disclosure form filed with JCOPE listed consulting payments from a developer and payments to his wife from a sham source. With independent and vigorous enforcement, these disclosures would have led to investigation. The developer payment raised obvious questions including the time period of the consulting and its subject matter. Ethics laws would impose conflict of interest restrictions even for the period in 2014 when Percoco was running the governor’s campaign.

Diligent investigation would have uncovered the fact that the subject matter of Percoco’s consulting was state business and the real source of the payment to Percoco’s wife was a company seeking state business. With vigorous and independent ethics enforcement, the matter would then have been referred for consideration of criminal prosecution.

Ethics violations can and should have serious consequences including removal from office and a bar to holding any future position of public trust. Even a public censure can have serious consequences. A lawyer who is publicly censured for ethics violations must inform all of his or her clients. A public official who is publicly censured should similarly be required to inform constituents at his or her expense.

None of these things will ever happen in New York unless we replace the Joint Commission on Public Ethics with a truly independent single agency with all the powers it needs to be effective and jurisdiction over elected officials and employees in both the executive and legislative branches of government. For now, JCOPE is a paper tiger that no one in state government, and certainly no politically well-connected state official, need fear.

Consider this example of how JCOPE is designed to fail. Even if JCOPE had good reason to investigate Percoco, two of the governor’s appointees to the 14-member commission could have vetoed that investigation. If the governor is serious about fighting corruption, he should be the first to call for a change in JCOPE’s absurd voting procedure.

And unlike the Joint Commission on Judicial Conduct, established in the state constitution to discipline judges, JCOPE has no power publicly to censure or remove anyone.

It won’t be easy to replace JCOPE with an enforcement agency that is convincingly independent and powerful in its ability to sanction — and therefore real. Still, replacing JCOPE is supported by the Assembly Republican minority and that is a start.

Now, when deciding which candidates to help, and in the September primaries and the November general election, it will be up to the voters.

  • Evan Davis served as chief counsel to former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and currently is manager of the Committee to Reform the State Constitution, which will urge voters not to support candidates opposing needed reforms

 

 

 

 

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