Monday, January 28, 2008

Leave the Campaign Money at the Revolving Door

Like many legislators before him, former Assembly Majority Leader Paul Tokasz left office in 2006 with a considerable campaign account, which, under New York law, he was allowed hang onto. Now he's working as a lobbyist and sprinkling his campaign cash, $57,000 of it so far, among the very lawmakers that his firm is trying to sway.

This is hardly "new news." As we've noted in the past, former Governor George Pataki has been funneling money through his PACs to sitting legislators since he left office at the end of 2005, and several former politicians from Western New York have used leftover campaign contributions to "stay in the game." This loophole is only one of many in our campaign finance and ethics laws that allow former and sitting officials to stretch the meaning of a campaign expenditure to cover almost anything.

The use of campaign contributions should be limited to legitimate campaign expenditures, which, after a legislator has stepped down, should only extend as far as paying off campaign debts or running for another office. To address Tokasz's point that he might again run for office one day, wouldn't it be possible to put campaign accounts in escrow until politicians decided to throw their hats back in the ring or donate the money to charity?

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