The New York Legislature yesterday offered an ethics and campaign finance reform package with much less punch than a proposal offered by Gov. David Paterson last week.
“We are transforming our state government with the most sweeping ethics and election law reforms Albany has ever seen,” said Senate Majority Leader John Sampson, D-Brooklyn. “Our reforms create greater disclosure requirements for public officials, strengthen enforcement capabilities to ensure the law is upheld, and increase transparency to end the veil of secrecy that has cloaked Albany for far too long.”
The Democratic majority leadership of the Senate and Assembly announced the proposal along with the Republican minority leadership in the Assembly.
Paterson was not impressed. The governor’s office said he would veto the proposal if it passed.
While Paterson sought to ban corporate contributions to political campaigns — including those made by limited liability partnerships and limited-liability corporations — the Legislature’s proposal does not. The Legislature’s campaign finance proposal essentially beefs up current enforcement rules and imposes some new filing and reporting requirements.
Law firms that have public finance practices have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to campaigns across the state in recent years, according to New York State Board of Elections filings.
Paterson’s proposal would also create a public campaign finance system that would provide a four-to-one match for contributions of up to $250. Individual contributions would be limited to no more than $1,000.
Another major difference is ethics reform. Paterson sought to consolidate ethics oversight of the legislature and executive branch into a single independent commission. The Legislature’s proposal would modify the existing oversight structure, but keep oversight of the two branches in separate commissions.
Other Paterson proposals that didn’t make it into the Legislature’s plan were the replacing the state comptroller’s sole trusteeship of the state pension fund with a board and the imposing term limits on elected state officials.
Both proposals would increase requirements for lawmakers to disclose outside income.
“The governor is stunned that legislative leaders would be so disrespectful to the public that only one week after he proposed a sweeping and real overhaul of the ethics system in Albany, they would try to pass this off as anything more than election year window dressing,” Paterson spokesman Peter Kauffmann said in a statement. “This proposal does nothing to address the underlying issues that have caused the people of New York to lose faith and trust in their government.”
Paterson unveiled his ethics proposal in his state of the state address last week, in which he also outlined some of the challenges New York faces as it tries to close a $6.8 billion budget gap for fiscal 2011. Paterson will propose his executive budget on Tuesday.