Senate hearing on campaign finance, other election changes

Posted at: 05/20/2013 3:29 PM | Updated at: 05/20/2013 5:19 PM
By: Bill Lambdin

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The four members of the state Senate's Independent Democratic Conference held a hearing Monday.

WNYT

ALBANY - They have their work cut out for them.

"Scandal correcting, even though valuable, is just not going to be enough for the big problem that I see," said Michael Malbin, the executive director of the Washington-based Campaign Finance Institute.

If you were looking for people who thought the current way of financing and running for state office in New York was just fine, this wasn't the place.

"The recent scandals that have nearly consumed this legislative session underscore the pervading, corruptive influences of money in our political system," said Barbara Bartoletti of the League of Women Voters.

The four members of the state Senate's Independent Democratic Conference held their hearing Monday.

There used to be five, but the IDC kicked out Malcolm Smith after he was charged in a bribery scheme. 

"The League has done 40 forums, educating the public around the state," Bartoletti said. "People are beginning to get this."

The four members of the IDC want to ban all corporate campaign contributions, slash the amount individuals can give and empower the State Attorney General to enforce rules to prevent violations. Right now that job, in theory, falls to the Albany County district attorney, but testimony from Board of Elections representatives indicated 1,120 campaign violations were referred to District Attorney David Soares from the period between 2007 and 2012, with no prosecutions.

The spokeswoman for Soares confirmed the office receives lists of candidates whom the Board of Elections claims are "not in compliance with financial disclosure requirements." Cecilia Logue wrote they "are not proper case referrals that have been investigated in any way. Our office is not the investigative arm of the Board of Elections. Nor can Albany County taxpayers be expected to bear the cost of investigating non-compliance cases of 61 other counties."  

A spokesman for the Board of Elections says the D-A's staff has never raised claims of insufficiency during numerous meetings and that all the failures to file have occurred in Albany County, not the other 61 counties in New York State.

The state Board of Elections came in for criticism at the hearing.

Officials said they have a lot to do.  

"While our workload increased 650 percent, the staff resources that we had to deal with were reduced 30 percent," said Robert Brehm.

 



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