June 8, 2011 •
Bill Creates Joint Commission on Public Ethics and New Disclosure Requirements
The New York Governor’s Office has released the ethics bill created by the agreement between legislators announced last Friday. The bill, which had previously been titled the Clean Up Albany Act of 2011, will be known as the Public Integrity Reform Act.
Chiefly, the bill establishes an independent Joint Commission on Public Ethics and enhances disclosure requirements by requiring state employees to disclose income from outside sources and names of clients. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics will have jurisdiction over all elected state officials and their employees in the executive and legislative branches, as well as lobbyists.
The bill provides the Joint Commission on Public Integrity must create an online ethics training course for registered lobbyists with a specific curriculum regarding the public officers’ law and ethics to be completed every three years. Additionally, the bill requires the disclosure by lobbyists of any reportable business relationship of more than $1,000 with public officials.
The definition of “widely attended” event is altered to include any event where 25 or more people other than legislators, officials, or government employees attend and which is related to the attendee’s duties or which allows the public official to perform a ceremonial function. The bill also allows officials to accept food or beverage valued at $15 or less.
The bill increases penalties for violations of the filing requirements and contribution limits and provides for a special enforcement proceeding in the Supreme Court.
The bill must age three days after its introduction and then can be voted on by the Legislature. The Legislature will recess today until next Monday, making adoption possible next week.
June 6, 2011 •
Governor Cuomo and Legislative Leaders Reach Agreement on Comprehensive Ethics Reform Package
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and General Assembly leaders have reached an agreement regarding comprehensive ethics reform. The agreement titled the “Clean Up Albany Act of 2011,” creates a joint commission on public ethics to investigate violations of law by members of both the executive and legislative branches, oversee their financial disclosure requirements, and oversee lobbyists with newly expanded disclosure rules and definition of lobbying.
The act expands lobbying disclosure requirements, including the disclosure by lobbyists of reportable business relationships of more than $1,000 with public officials. It also expands the definition of lobbying to include advocacy to affect the introduction of legislation or resolutions. Additionally, the act calls for the state board of elections to issue new regulations clarifying disclosure requirements for independent expenditures.
Photo of Governor Cuomo by Pat Arnow on Wikipedia.
February 15, 2011 •
Lobbyist Acting as Political Consultants Required to Disclose Retainers
New York Assembly Bill 04933, which is currently before the Assembly Election Law Committee, seeks to impose disclosure requirements upon lobbyists who act as political consultants.
The bill defines political consultants as any person receiving compensation for providing professional services relating to advising clients on political activities, political advertising, campaign strategies, campaign publicity, or campaign management.
Political consultants would be required to disclose the identities, telephone numbers, and addresses of all clients.
New York Coat of Arms by One Salient Oversight on Wikipedia.
January 27, 2011 •
Commission to Improve Lobbying Laws
City Council has confirmed the appointments of Herbert Berman, Margaret Morton, Lesley Horton, and Jamila Ponton Bragg to the New York City Lobbying Commission. Berman, a lobbyist and former Council Finance Committee Chair, was selected to be the Lobbying Commission Chair.
Formation of the Lobbying Commission had stalled for three years as suitable candidates were sought. The Lobbying Commission is an advisory body charged with making recommendations to improve New York City’s 2006 lobbying laws.
Photo of the New York City Hall by Momos on Wikipedia.
January 19, 2011 •
New York Bill Proposes to Limit Contribution Amounts and Timing
Senate Bill 37, introduced by Senator Daniel Squadron, proposes to curtail political contributions by lobbyists. The bill limits lobbyist political contributions to $250 per candidate, per election and contributions may only be made between the first of July and the end of the year.
The bill further bars lobbyists from soliciting or transmitting a contribution or a request for a contribution from any person, including a political committee, for the benefit of a public official or party committee.
Photo of New York State Capitol courtesy of UpstateNYer on Wikipedia.
December 22, 2010 •
New York Commission on Public Integrity Loosens Revolving Door Restrictions to Benefit Laid-off State Employees
The New York State Commission on Public Integrity has released an advisory opinion making it easier for state employees targeted by layoffs to gain new employment. The commission announced that the 30-day recusal period set forth in Advisory Opinion No. 06-01 has been suspended as it applies to state officers or employees who have been targeted for layoffs or state employees who may opt for relocation or layoff because their position will be eliminated.
State employees who pursue potential post-government employment opportunities must still recuse themselves from any matters pertaining to that private entity for the duration that the employee remains employed by the state agency, if targeted for layoff.
Flag of New York image courtesy of Wikipedia.
December 10, 2010 •
Commission Chair Resigns and Express Concerns Regarding the Operation of the Commission on Public Integrity
Michael Cherkasky resigned as chairman of the New York Commission on Public Integrity sighting personal conflicts of interest. Cherkasky explained in his resignation letter that the recent acquisition of Altegrity Inc., where he is chief executive officer, could create future conflicts of interest with him functioning as commission chair.
Cherkasky also identified several concerns he has for the future of the commission including the lack of resources allocated to the commission, the lack of enforcement over the legislative branch, and issues with the commission having too many members and being overly partisan. Cherkasky’s resignation is effective January 1, 2011.
November 4, 2010 •
New York City Voters Approve New Law Requiring Disclosure of Independent Expenditures
New York City voters supported, by a vote of 83 percent to 17 percent with 87 percent of precincts reporting, a referendum item which called for several changes to the city charter. The changes include requiring disclosure of campaign contributions by independent groups and raising the maximum fine for violating conflicts of interest law. Currently, people and organizations that spend money independently of any candidate to support or oppose political candidates or to influence votes in a referendum are not required to report those expenditures publicly.
The new voter approved law requires any individual or group that spends $1,000 or more to support or oppose a candidate or referendum to disclose the expenditure to the city’s Campaign Finance Board and include in any literature the name of any individual or organization that paid for it. The law also requires any group spending $5,000 or more to support or oppose a candidate to disclose any organizations that made contributions to that group and any individual who contributed $1,000 or more during the 12-month period preceding the election.
Photo of the New York City Municipal Building by Momos on Wikipedia.
October 25, 2010 •
New York Inspector General Finds Potential Ethics Violations in Video Lottery Terminal Bidding Process
New York State Inspector General Joseph Fisch has released a report that criticizes New York State leaders for failing to fulfill their public duty in the January 2010 selection of Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG) to operate video lottery terminals at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. The 300-page report concludes that AEG should have been disqualified, and that the chaotic process resulting in AEG’s multi-billion dollar award was a “political free-for-all” marked by unfair advantages and more than $100,000 in campaign donations.
The report found that Governor Paterson, Senate Democratic Conference Leader Sampson, Senate President Pro Tempore Smith, and Assembly Speaker Silver each contributed to the multi-million dollar debacle. The report strongly recommends that the bidding process used to select AEG never be repeated and that New York State impose stringent procurement restrictions on all major contracts to ensure that they are competitive, transparent and fair.
The Inspector General’s Office is forwarding the report to United States Attorney and New York County District Attorney, for appropriate action and referring Senators Sampson and Smith to the Legislative Ethics Commission.
Map of New York by Huebi on Wikipedia.
September 15, 2010 •
New York City campaign finance reforms alter nature of political contributions.
NEW YORK: A recent examination by New York City’s Campaign Finance Board shows that changes enacted before the 2009 mayoral election encouraged 34,000 New Yorkers to make campaign donations for the first time; drastically curtailed the role of businesses, political committees and lobbyists in campaigns; and caused a major drop in donations from those doing business with the city.
The Campaign Finance Board report found that New York City’s newly promulgated rules diminished the role of businesses, political committees and unions in campaign fund-raising. They now account for 7.2 percent of all funds available to candidates. In the last election for State Assembly and Senate candidates, such contributions accounted for 66.6 percent of all the money raised. New York City’s system has become a model for campaign finance reform based upon these results.
Photo of the New York City Hall by Momos on Wikipedia.
August 19, 2010 •
News from the New York Commission on Public Integrity, input is sought.
The New York Commission on Public Integrity has published Notices of Proposed Rulemaking in the New York State Register to add Title 19 NYCRR Parts 933 and 934. Part 933 governs gift restrictions for state officers and employees, while part 934 governs lobbyists and their clients.
A period for comment is available until September 25, 2010. Those wishing to submit comments may e-mail them to email@example.com. Further, those wishing to view the proposed rules can find them at www.nyintegrity.org/law/regulations.html.
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