NY Green Party Calls Legislative Ethics Reform Inadequate

The Green Party of New York State stated today that it opposed the ethics reform deal announced earlier this week

as being too late, too late, an attempt at damage control rather than the real reform New York taxpayers deserve. The Greens said that it agreed with Gov. Paterson that this bill is “election-year window dressing.”

"With the defeat of incumbents like Tom Suozzi and Andy Spano, lawmakers are scared that many voters have reached their breaking point, disgusted by a political system that benefits special interests rather than the average New Yorker. The trial and convinction of Senator Bruno really exposed the seamy side of Albany wheeling and dealing, shocking many. The so-called ethics deal bill is a desperate attempt to put some fancy new wrapping paper around a corrupt system. This deal is about providing cover for incumbent state lawmakers, not ending the ability of special interests to buy lawmakers. Reformers need to demand a whole lot more rather than be satisified with a few crumbs," said Eric Jones, GPNYS co-chair, who thanked groups like Common Cause for their opposition to the proposed deal.

The compromise ethics bill proposed by the Legislature on Tuesday does not go nearly far enough in addressing what is already a crisis in New York State politics. Real ethics reform would include an ethics commission independent of legislative control as well as a requirement that all clients of legislators be made public. Allowing legislators to appoint members to the proposed Legislative Office of Ethics Investigation is akin to letting the inmates continue running the asylum. The reform package should include public financing of campaigns, certainly a total ban on contributions from those doing business with the state (e.g., a ban on pay to play).

“Ethics reform whereby the Legislature is allowed to police itself is absolutely a joke. The Citizens Union of New York has shown that in the past decade, ‘one out of every fifteen legislative seats turned over because of ethical or criminal misconduct or related issues. This does not even count those who are still in office and under investigation or whose fates are currently being decided.’ What kind of real change can occur when these legislators are allowed to be on an ethics commission? New Yorkers should reject these proposed changes as another slap in the face from the Legislature,” said Gloria Mattera, Secretary of the GPNYS.

Under the proposed deal, legislators who are lawyers, doctors, or part of a “protected profession would not have to reveal their clients to the public – a major and crucial loophole. This would exempt a significant portion of state lawmakers, including Speaker Silver and Senate Dem. Caucus Leader Sampson. While penalties for campaign finance rule breaking would grow, the bill does nothing to address the need for public financing of elections to limit the sway private campaign donors and lobbyists have on legislators.

“Many legislators are using the clichéd phrase ‘don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good’, but we see very often that bad and mediocre bills in Albany are the final word for years on an issue, not a starting point for further reform. Senators and Assemblypersons should be ashamed that after years of scandal and corruption trials they have put forward such a weak bill clearly for their own benefit during an election year. New Yorkers deserve better after being given so little for so long. We call on the Governor to veto this bill if it passes both houses, and for real ethics reform in Albany,” stated David Doonan, Mayor of Greenwich.