Public Corruption Commission Recommends Statewide Campaign Financing, Other Reforms

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The New York State Capitol in Albany.

Governor Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission issued a scathing report Monday evening that criticizes what the commission says is Albany’s culture of corruption and recommends numerous reforms.

The Moreland Act Commissioners describe their report as a “blue print” to fix what they say is the pervasive “dysfunction” in Albany.

They recommend enacting New York City style public campaign financing for statewide elections, and closing loopholes that allow limited liability corporations and party housekeeping accounts to blatantly shirk existing limits for campaign contributions. They believe LLC’s should be held to the same $5000 limit currently in place for corporations.

The commissioners also say that the State Board of elections should be stripped of their enforcement powers, and an independent enforcement agency be setup instead. They say the Board of Election’s current bipartisan structure, with two commissioners from each major party has led to a “tacit, bipartisan agreement to do nothing."

The commission also wants to create a new crime of “failure to report bribery” and make it easier to prosecute and prove bribery. Similar ideas were already recommended by Governor Cuomo, but the legislature failed to act on them in the 2013 legislative session. The commission advises creating another new criminal offense of “undisclosed self dealing” by elected officials who don’t tell the public they may have a financial interest in a particular bill or policy.  

The commission says it’s continuing several ongoing investigations that give hints of potential criminal corruption. They include a look at how luxury real estate developers got a tax break secretly buried in a law passed last January, and they refer to emails from a trade association that sponsored a fundraiser for Assembly Democrats that specifically said contributions of $10,000 per attendee were necessary to get favorable laws enacted and stop “terrible” ones from happening.

In a statement, Governor Cuomo was noncommittal about the commission's specific ideas, but said he wants to work toward “systematic reform."