Jewishupdates's Blog

January 5, 2010

Gov. Paterson Seeks Overhaul to Combat Corruption

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishupdates @ 2:03 pm

Gov. Paterson Seeks Overhaul to Combat Corruption

NYS Gov. David A. Paterson on Wednesday will unveil a set of sweeping proposals to rein in political corruption in state government, including vastly expanded ethics oversight, term limits for all state officeholders and a system of public campaign financing modeled on New York City’s, administration officials said on Monday.

Under the proposed legislation, which Mr. Paterson will make a centerpiece of his State of the State address on Wednesday, New York would for the first time provide matching funds to candidates for state office, limit lobbyists to contributions no larger than $250 and ban corporate contributions entirely. The maximum contribution for any candidate for state office, including the governor, would fall to $1,000 from $55,900, and the limits would apply to candidates who opt out of public financing.

Mr. Paterson is also proposing to sharply limit contributions to each party’s so-called housekeeping accounts, where special interests may now deposit five- and six-figure checks with few restrictions, and ban bundling – the practice by which lobbyists and others collect contributions on behalf of a candidate.

While bills to create public financing have passed the Assembly many times, the expanded ethics oversight and term limits are expected to be a difficult sell in both houses of the Legislature, which has been slow to consider tougher ethics laws. And the governor’s relationship with lawmakers has deteriorated as he publicly blamed them for failing to take action on the state budget shortfall.

The legislation would effectively dismantle Albany’s existing campaign finance system, in which corporations and labor unions deposit millions of dollars into central housekeeping accounts controlled by party leaders, who then use that money to finance individual candidates, making rank-and-file lawmakers dependent on the leaders.

Perhaps most controversially, Mr. Paterson will propose limiting statewide officials – the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and comptroller – to two four-year terms each, while members of the Legislature would be permitted six two-year terms. Such a change would require an amendment to the State Constitution.

Mr. Paterson is also including in his package a proposal he made last year to centralize ethics enforcement in Albany with a single independent commission charged with enforcing the state’s ethics and campaign finance laws. The new commission would also have the legal authority to refer criminal and civil cases to the attorney general, who, under current law, has limited jurisdiction over political corruption cases.

Taken together, the proposals amount to the most ambitious ever suggested by a sitting governor in New York, where ethics enforcement has historically been weak and limits on campaign cash are among the least stringent in the nation.

(MORE At NY Times Website)


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