Friday, June 16, 2006

End-of-Session Ethics Push in Albany

The Daily Star Online reports that Assembly Democrats have introduced an ethics package with one week left in the Legislature’s official session for the year.

The proposal would ban most gifts from lobbyists, place stricter limits on the use of campaign accounts and restrict the ability of top legislative employees to leave their positions for jobs as highly paid lobbyists. It would also ban public officials from paid speaking engagements. But...

some government watchdogs question whether the proposal is a sincere attempt to change government in Albany or an election-year ruse to appease voters angered by corruption and dysfunction at the capital…

Horner [of NYPIRG] called the package "a step forward" but said it left out several proposals good government groups have been looking for, such as the creation of an independent ethics panel. Also, when it comes to lawmakers’ use of campaign cash for personal expenses, the proposal leaves it up to the notoriously weak state Board of Elections to develop its rules against it.

We agree. Although this bill is a step in the right direction, it falls short of comprehensive reform. The Brennan Center, along with NYPRIG, Common Cause and the League released a model ethics bill in February of this year. Our bill goes further. It would create an independent ethics commission, ban personal use of campaign contributions except for certain di minimums items so that candidates can’t pay cell phone bills and buy pool covers with supporters’ donations, and ban “pay-to-play” practices, limiting the contributions that lobbyists and government contractors can give to candidates.

Categories: General, Government Ethics

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