Niagara Gazette

Local News

May 7, 2013

Group cites 100,000 NY campaign finance violations

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — "There really is, as the U.S. attorney said, a show-me-the-money culture in Albany," he said, where 70 percent of donations come from special interests including businesses and unions.

The groups advocated campaign finance measures, similar to New York City's system with matching funds for small donations, and better, more independent enforcement. NYPIRG said the severity of corruption in the state campaign system is "exponentially greater" than in the city system.

The Democrat-controlled Assembly on Tuesday voted 87-49 to pass such a campaign finance measure, while the Senate Elections Committee held a hearing focusing on the city campaign system.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the NYPIRG report was further evidence that the current self-policing system doesn't work and the need for independent enforcement.

Other items marginally related to campaigns, and currently regarded as legal, range from paying for gifts and entertainment to hiring lawyers when charged with corruption. A NYPIRG review of campaign reports from the past three years showed 1,224 expenses on car payments, legal defenses for criminal charges, flowers, golf, clowns, and musicians.

The AP review of finance records found seemingly questionable expenses that included Sen. Martin Golden of Brooklyn spending campaign funds for regularly gassing up vehicles in Mahwah and Hackensack, N.J.; Sen. Betty Little spending $1,205 in December for legislative gifts from Oscar's Smoke House in her Adirondack district; Sen. Jeff Klein paying $150 per appearance for magician John Turdo; and Sen. Greg Ball spending $436 at Hill Country Outfitters in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Golden, a Republican who called taxpayer financing a joke, said he has no problem with stronger enforcement. He buys gas in New Jersey because it's on his way to Albany, 170 miles each way, and the gas is about 30 cents a gallon cheaper, he said.

Klein, a Bronx Democrat who proposed legislation for public financing and stronger enforcement, said he gets requests from civic associations asking if he can pay for a magician or help fund a street fair. One of his staff members dresses up as the Easter bunny, he said.

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