Niagara Gazette — ALBANY — Gassing up twice a week in New Jersey? Hiring Turdo the magician? Buying smoked meats for Christmas presents?
A review of campaign finance reports by The Associated Press shows that's all part of the questionable use of campaign donations that can buoy lawmakers' lifestyles and buy support back home.
The New York Public Interest Research Group also said Tuesday it found more than 100,000 violations of state campaign finance laws since 2011, including campaign committee failures to file accurate reports and no recent reports at all from 2,328 committees.
"Some of them are flagrant violations of the state's contribution limits," said NYPIRG researcher Bill Mahoney, citing what the group said were 278 improper corporate donations. "Others are more minor peccadillos that show a complete disregard for the law because they occur in such huge numbers."
Joined by other good government advocacy groups that blame lack of enforcement, NYPIRG also reported many misidentified or unidentified campaign expenditures.
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."
While noting its own 2012 report found $31 million in campaign funds had "gone missing," NYPIRG noted that the elections board has claimed success identifying candidates who do not file required reports on time and that its 2011 annual report cited 9,848 letters sent to campaign treasurers about late filings and imposing small fines on 792.
Larry Norton of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School said New York has only 63 state senators and over the last seven years 13 have been charged with or convicted of crimes.