Every Friday, the Brennan Center will be compiling the latest news concerning the corrosive nature of money in New York State politics — and the ongoing need for public financing and robust campaign finance reform. We’ll also be linking to dispatches from around the country highlighting the national scope of this crisis. This week’s links were contributed by Matthew Ladd and Dan Rockoff.
For more stories on an ongoing basis, follow the Twitter hashtag #moNeYpolitics
NY Campaign Finance, Corruption and Politics:
1. The Buffalo News has issued an editorial calling for the state Senate and Assembly to work together to enact public financing of state elections in the next legislative session. Public financing would not only “help our state legislators clean up their collective act and limit the corrosive influence of money on their decisions,” the editorial argues, but would also “give challengers better footing to take on incumbents” and, combined with nonpartisan redistricting, make elections fairer and more competitive.
2. The $33,000 that Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner funneled to local candidates through the state Democratic Committee is “further evidence of a campaign finance system in disarray,” writes the Syracuse Post-Standard. Although Miner withdrew the contributions in the face of public criticism, steering money from PACs to campaign committees is business as usual in Albany. “It’s done all the time to get around the very lax campaign finance limits and nonexistent campaign laws in New York state,” says Barbara Bartoletti of the state League of Women Voters. “It’s not going to change until we reform the campaign finance laws.”
3. Fresh from his acquittal on corruption charges, Brooklyn State Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. has been arrested again — this time for soliciting bribes during his trial, apparently in order to pay the attorneys who represented him. Boyland is now charged with soliciting over $250,000 in bribes since he was charged in the first case; last April, mere weeks after he was released on bond, FBI agents posing as real estate investors recorded Boyland seeking money to pay his lawyers, but insisting that he needed to “stay clean” by working through a “bag man.”
4. One of the state’s key witnesses in the corruption trial of Larry Seabrook has given inconsistent accounts of her connection with the ex-assemblyman, inconsistencies that the prosecution attributes to age and memory loss. Another witness for the prosecution, Laila Yu, testified on Tuesday that three nonprofit groups connected to Seabrook received $2.1 million in city funds, in addition to overbilling the city for rent reimbursements.
5. Companies that drill for natural gas have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to state legislative campaigns, and spent over $3.2 million in lobbying, in the run-up to Gov. Cuomo’s decision on when and where to permit hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in New York State. The energy industry has also contributed to campaigns in Texas, Pennsylvania and Ohio in order to elect fracking-friendly legislators. In response to public debate over the issue, the NY Department of Energy has extended its public comment period to January 11, 2012.
6. The New York Times criticized House Republicans for their attempt to repeal the voluntary public funding program for presidential candidates, created in the wake of the Watergate scandal. The editorial points out that the justification for attempting to repeal the program — deficit savings — is especially cynical given that the Republican Party recently requested, and received, $17.7 million in public money to finance next year’s presidential convention.