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Money and Politics This Week

A roundup with the latest news highlighting the corrosive nature of money in New York State politics — and the need for public financing and robust campaign finance reform.

  • ReformNY
December 9, 2011

Crossposted at ReformNY.

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.

For more stories on an ongoing basis, follow the Twitter hashtag #moNeYpolitics

NY Campaign Finance

1. Joan Mandle’s Sunday Op-Ed in the Syracuse Post-Standard issued a clarion call for voluntary public financing of elections in New York state. Drawing on recent visits to New York college campuses, Mandle observed that frustration with the political system is a direct result of the massive influx of corporate money in legislative campaigns, and encouraged Gov. Cuomo to return to his earlier outspoken support for a voluntary public financing system. “We believe in democracy,” Mandle wrote. “It’s time for our elected officials to prove that they do, too.”

2. The Times-Union also called for Gov. Cuomo to move forward with his campaign promise to prioritize public financing, pointing out that independent expenditure loopholes allowed a coalition of labor unions to pour $400,000 into the coffers of a challenger for Erie County executive during the final six weeks of the race. A state public funding remedy would guarantee that even “a candidate being overwhelmed by special-interest money… would be assured of funds by way of a constituency without a clear agenda.”

3. Trustees at Manhattan’s Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum encouraged other board members to contribute to Gov. Cuomo’s re-election campaign by attending a birthday fundraiser at the Intrepid, raising questions about when directors of a nonprofit organization may engage in political activity without risking their tax-exempt status. Although the email was sent from a trustee’s museum email address, a museum spokesman characterized the email as a “personal appeal,” implying that the sender — a co-chair of the Intrepid’s charitable foundation — did not send it in his capacity as trustee.

NY Corruption and Politics

4. William Boyland’s bribery scandal continues to make headlines, as his chief of staff, Ry-Ann Hermon, was charged this week with taking bribes from the same federal officers who recorded Boyland’s bribery solicitations. The arrest comes on the heels of Boyland’s latest charges, which include evidence that he took a $3,800 bribe from a federal agent at a Brooklyn fundraiser while claiming travel and lodging expenses as if he were in Albany on state business. The ongoing scandal has moved Republican State Sen. Steve McLaughlin to call for Boyland’s resignation.

5. Four associates of Queens State Sen. Shirley Huntley, including one of her aides, have been charged with misappropriating $30,000 in public funds that was earmarked for Parent Workshop, a nonprofit ostensibly created to help parents navigate the New York City school system. The indictments are the latest — and most high-profile — results of this year’s joint effort between attorney general Eric Schneiderman and city comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to target public corruption. Subpoenas, including one for Huntley’s daughter, were issued in March, but the state did not file charges until this week.

Campaign Finance and Politics Nationwide

6. The world’s largest ethanol producer is also a major contributor to New Gingrich’s presidential campaign, according to a study released by the Center for Responsive Politics. Individual donors from the corporation include CEO Jeff Broin, who also chairs Growth Energy, an ethanol lobbying organization that hired Gingrich as a consultant two years ago.