Corrupt New York politicians are dominating the news lately, most recently the scandal surrounding State Senator John Sampson. While the alleged crimes of Sampson and Malcolm Smith are serious in size and scope, they aren’t the only local politicians skirting on the edges of the rules, especially when it comes to those governing state campaign finance laws.
A report by the Associated Press cites studies done by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) that have found over 100,000 violations committed by New York politicians since 2011. The violations also include failures by campaign committees to file accurate reports.
Bill Mahoney, a researcher for NYPIRG, stated that his group noted 278 improper corporate donations among other violations.
“Some of them are flagrant violations of the state’s contribution limits. Others are more minor peccadillos that show a complete disregard for the law because they occur in such huge numbers,” the Chronicle reported Mahoney saying.
The report explained why nothing is being to done to enforce violations:
Barbara Bartoletti of the League of Women Voters, whose group has monitored the state Board of Elections for decades, said then Gov. Eliot Spitzer budgeted $1.5 million for board enforcement of election laws in 2009, but it was never used because the agency is controlled by the Republican and Democratic parties. It has no will for enforcement, she said. “Right now it has no investigators.”
The NYPIRG report says that corruption on the state level is “exponentially greater” then the corruption on the city level. Governor Andrew Cuomo cited the report as a clear need to move away from the current system, which allows state officials to police themselves, and is pushing for greater independent enforcement.
The AP report noted that local State Senator Marty Golden was found to be in violation of more minor offenses have “seemingly questionable expenses.” Apparently, on his way to and from Albany, Golden refuels his car using campaign cash in Mahwah and Hackensack, New Jersey, where gas is cheaper. [Corrected: See below, with statement from Golden’s office]
Golden, who is for stronger enforcement, defended his actions by stating that he saves 30 cents a gallon by filling in up in New Jersey on his 170 mile trip to Albany.
Correction (May 10 at 11:40 a.m.): Our original post indicated that the NYPIRG report noted “minor offenses” by Golden in spending campaign cash on gas in New Jersey. In fact, that was an observation by the Associated Press, and was listed as a “seemingly questionable expense,” not a violation. Golden spokesperson Ray Riley wrote the following to Sheepshead Bites:
It’s not a violation, nor has it been considered a violation. If you read the AP article, the author writes: “The AP review of finance records found seemingly questionable expenses..” which means the AP found them to be questionable, not the New York State Campaign Finance or Board of Elections.
We regret any confusion this may have caused.