The Brennan Center regularly compiles 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. This week’s links were contributed by Eric Petry and Syed Zaidi.
For more stories on an ongoing basis, follow the Twitter hashtags #moNeYpolitics and #fairelex.
State Sen. Libous Facing Charges of Lying to Prosecutors
New York State Senator Thomas Libous, a 13-term incumbent representing Binghamton, was arraigned in federal court last Tuesday for allegedly making false statements to the FBI. Federal prosecutors claim that Libous lied about using his influence as a state senator to boost his son’s salary at a Westchester law firm. Libous and his son, Matthew, have pleaded not guilty to the charges. The indictment states that the elder Libous arranged for an Albany lobbying firm to pay $50,000 to the law firm where his son was employed, in order to inflate his son’s salary. He “took advantage of his position as senator and chairman of the Transportation Committee by corruptly causing lobbyists, who wanted Libous’ influence to benefit their clients, to funnel money through a law firm to his son,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara explained. When questioned by prosecutors regarding these charges, Libous denied involvement in any deal between the lobbying firm and the law firm, according to the indictment. Matthew Libous is being simultaneously accused of tax evasion. If the senator is convicted, it would increase the number of Albany legislators that have been forced out of office due to misconduct since 2000 to 27.
Real Estate Interests Seek to Boost Republicans in November Elections
Following the collapse of the power-sharing coalition in the New York State Senate last week, conservative interest groups are combining their efforts with New York real estate developers to win additional seats and maintain Republican influence in the state legislature. The Republican State Leadership Committee and its affiliated 501(c)(4), the State Government Leadership Foundation, have made significant donations to New York political groups, including $10,000 to the Balance New York super PAC, most of whose funds in turn come from the Rent Stabilization Association PAC and the Neighborhood Preservation Political Action Fund. The Rent Stabilization Association PAC, composed of owners of the city’s rent stabilized buildings, has been actively contributing to incumbent Republican Senators including Andrew Lanza in Staten Island and Jack Martins in Long Island, who are facing Democratic challengers this November. More information regarding contributions and expenditures in the state races will be available following the state Board of Election’s July 15th filing deadline.
Teachout Gathers Signatures to Challenge Gov. Cuomo in Primary
Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham Law professor hoping to challenge Governor Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary, informed the press this week that her campaign has the necessary signatures to appear on the ballot. Thus far Teachout says she has gathered more than 45,000 signatures from registered Democrats. Although only 15,000 signatures are required to be placed on the ballot, the campaign expects the governor to legally challenge the validity of some signatures. Teachout has been actively seeking support from local Democratic clubs in New York City. She has centered her campaign on concerns regarding rising income inequality and corruption in the state capital. “I would love to be the governor of New York” she told a crowd of likely primary voters. “But I would also like to get this governor of ours … [to] actually listen to the deep, very heartfelt concerns of the Democrats of this state."