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Thursday, April 24, 2014
Legislature must heed commission's findings
(Page 2 of 3)

An example of one of the flagrantly abused loopholes in campaign contribution laws (which legislators wrote, of course) — a deceit that many journalists and good-government groups like the League of Woman Voters have long decried — involves limited liability corporations. “[T]he Commission has found that one entity has used 25 separate LLCs and subsidiary entities to make 147 separate political contributions totaling more than $3.1 million since 2008.”

The commission is also investigating such matters as member items and legislatively directed grants, uses of campaign funds, conflicts of interest and the way money talks and favors are traded in Albany amid a one-hand-washes-the-other mentality.

Even the state body charged with overseeing the purity of the electoral process, the State Board of Elections, comes in for harsh criticism: “To the extent the Board engages in any enforcement-related activity, this activity is generally inadequate and inefficient. . . . In spite of the Board’s consistent refrain that it lacks the resources needed to engage in significant enforcement activity, the Board fails to make use of the resources and powers it has at its disposal. The Board has a ‘bipartisan’ structure, whereby significant positions, including the commissioner positions, are split evenly between the Democrats and the Republicans. We have found that this bipartisan structure inhibits, and at times prevents, significant enforcement action from being taken. The Board has failed to carry out its duty to enforce the Election Law, enabling the culture of corruption in Albany.”

In its report, the commission, one of whose co-chairs is Nassau County’s district attorney, Kathleen Rice, issued recommendations. It called for reform of how campaigns are financed, “robust disclosure,” and enforcement of tighter rules. It wants an independent election-law-enforcement agency because the current elections board “lacks the structural independence, the resources, and the will to enforce election and campaign finance laws.”

And the commission wants to see prosecutors fight corruption with more powerful tools.

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