Thursday, August 31, 2006

Second Circuit Takes Power Away From Party Bosses

In a unanimous vote, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed – in its entirety – the decision of U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson granting a motion for preliminary injunctive relief in Lopez Torres v. New York State Board of Elections. The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, together with pro bono counsel, Arnold & Porter LLP and Jenner & Block LLP, argued that New York’s unique convention system -— used by the political parties to select their judicial nominees -— deprives New Yorkers of their right to cast a meaningful vote for trial court judges.

A copy of the (in our unbiased view) excellent opinion can be found here. William Rashbaum's account in the Times is here.

Why is this decision so important? There are many reasons, and we will continue to blog about this in the coming days. But the most simple reason is this: New Yorkers will now have a say in who their trial court judges are. An undemocratic process -- whereby party bosses chose our judges -- seems to have received its death knell.

Categories: General, Judicial Selection

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

CFE: Unfair Distribution of State Education Funds

Capitol Confidential reports that the Court of Appeals has set an October 10 date for a hearing on the Campaign for Fiscal Equity Case. As many of you know, the Courts have already ruled that certain jurisdictions like New York City have not received their fair share of state education funds, and have ordered the State to distribute such funds more equitably.

But the State Legislature has repeatedly failed to act on a series of rulings in this case. We can't say we're surprised: the Legislature makes a habit of failing to address difficult issues. But the courts have become increasingly frustrated. In fact, in March, an Appellate Division Court ruled that New York City schools should get between $4.7 and $5.6 billion in additional aid in the next five years.

The Legislature still has done nothing. And something needs to be done -- court orders can't be ignored forever. The Brennan Center has submitted an Amicus Brief in the latest round of this case. We'll be blogging more about it in the coming weeks.

Categories: General

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

No Reforms, No Raise

Fred Dicker in the New York Post writes that Elliot Spitzer insists that legislators shouldn't get a raise until they enact important reforms.

This strikes us as a good idea. In 2004, the Brennan Center issued a report that identified many of the Legislature's failings and made a series of recommendations for improvements. Just prior to the 2004 election, every politician in New York State seemed to agree that reform was needed. And in January 2005, the Assembly and Senate each passed what they called "landmark reform." We were happy that the Legislature responded to the public outcry over the need for reform, but we were a bit more skeptical about the steps it actually took.

We're in the process of completing a new report that looks at how much has changed in Albany since new legislative rules were adopted in 2005. We can't tell you too much about our findings prior to release, but if you know anything about Albany, you can probably guess (hint: not much has changed). If real reforms are going to come, legislators must feel the heat. Conditioning real reform on pay raises may be the right kind of pressure.

Categories: General, Legislative Rules

Monday, August 28, 2006

New York's Voting Machine Choice

Sewell Chan reports on the Brennan Center's usability study of voting machines in today's New York Times. We'll have lots to say in the coming days about this release, but the most important thing is this: of the two types of machines that New York is considering, one -- the full face DRE, or "touch screen" voting machine -- has significantly higher lost vote rates than the other -- Precinct Count Optical Scan, or a machine which allows a voter to fill out her ballot by pen and then feed the ballot into a scanner. The difference is significant. At top of the ticket races (i.e. President, Governor), there is a 1.2% "residual" or lost vote rate on full face DREs, but just 0.7% for Precinct Count Optical Scans. That may not sound like a lot, but consider that there are well over 10,000,000 registered voters in New York. 0.5% represents more than 50,000 votes.

Categories: General, Voting

Friday, August 25, 2006

Legislators Want Voice in Selecting Voting Machines

Legislators in Albany County have asked that their opinions be considered when the Albany County Election Commissioners (who, like county election commissioners around the state will have final say as to what new electronic voting machines are selected for their county) choose new voting machines.

Certainly, we agree with the sentiment that the public should be involved in this process. As we've been mentioning over and over again on this blog, we've already issued a security analysis of the most commonly purchased electronic voting machines, and we've got three more reports coming in the next few weeks: looking at the usability, accessibility and cost of new systems (usability should be out early next week).

Here are some suggestions we have for the commissioners:

Perform extensive usability tests before purchasing machines: this means letting actual members of the public vote on the machines and gauging both their reaction to the machines (did they like them? Did they find them confusing? Were the confident that their votes were recorded accurately? did it take them a long time to complete their ballots?) and whether they made any errors while they voted (we found the correlation between liking a machine and voting error free is not necessarily related -- some voters are confused by the machines and make errors, but don't realize it).

Perform extensive accessibility tests before purchasing the machines: ask the elderly and disabled in your county to use the machines you are thinking about buying. Observe the entire voting process from approaching the voting machine, to making selections, to casting the final vote. And consider how easily people with multiple disabilities (e.g., citizen with both sight and manual dexterity problems) can vote on these machines.

Categories: General, Voting

Member Items and November

We've previously written about member items in Albany: hundreds of millions of dollars of "special legislative grants" for which there is little public record in New York. Can member items take center stage in the run up to elections. At least one candidate seems to hope so: "Philip 'Flip' Pidot, the Republican Party candidate and prospective Growth Party candidate for New York State Senate in the 26th District, has proposed a permanent and comprehensive legislative abolition of “member items” spending in the State Legislature, as well as voluntary disclosure by sitting lawmakers of all prior such spending."

Hat tip: UrbanElephants.

Categories: General

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Demanding Change in Albany

Citizens for Better Government in New York is asking New Yorkers to sign an e-petition, which will demand legislators in Albany enact specific reforms. Take a look.

Categories: General

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

An Argument for Public Financing?

Common Cause notes that less than a quarter of all campaign contributions in the governor's race came from upstate. Does this provide a reason for New Yorkers upstate to support public financing of elections? NYPIRG's Blair Horner says yes: "Campaigns have to be paid for by somebody," he said. "Either by the wealthy and powerful or the average New Yorker... It's better if everyone has a financial stake in the system, rather than just the wealthy few."

Categories: General, Campaign Finance

New York's Disservice to its Disabled Voters

New York 1 reports on the City Board of Election's unveiling of their "ballot marking devices," machines that are meant to allow physically disabled and elderly voters to vote in privacy in November's election -- something that's required under the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

“Whether they have a visual disability or dexterity disability, they can vote on a machine and have their ballot marked using either the audio component of the ballot or a touch screen component of the ballot, or if they need to, use either a sip and puff type device or rocker paddles,” New York City Board of Elections Executive Director John Ravitz said Monday.

Sounds great, no? But there's at least one big problem. HAVA requires one machine for the disabled at every polling place. In New York City, these machines will only "be in place in every borough office for September's primaries and November's election."

That means if I'm disabled and I live in Inwood, at the northern end of Manhattan, I've got to find someway to get several miles downtown -- just so that I can wait in line at the borough offices, with every other disabled person in Manhattan, in order to vote. And remember, I'm physically disabled and/or elderly.

This isn't the city's fault, necessarily. Because the State was so slow in getting its act together in complying with HAVA, it was forced, by lawsuit brought by the Justice Department, to come up with this plan. But any way you look at it, disabled voters are not getting what they should be entitled to by law.

Categories: General, Voting

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Taking the State to Task on Voting Machines

In a scathing editorial, the Buffalo News takes the State to task for failing to get its act together on voting machines. The newspaper notes that the State is a year behind schedule. It also faults the State for failing to select a single type of machine for the entire state. Specifically, the paper preferes the optical scan machiness (which requires voters to fill in ovals on a ballot, much the way they would mark an SAT exam, and then feed the ballot into a scanner) to touch screens (which are more like ATMs, in which the voter makes her section by touching the screen).

We don't have a position on whether the state should have mandated one system for every county, but we will say this: we'll soon have another report out that should help election officials decide which system is best for voters.

Categories: General, Voting

Monday, August 21, 2006

Unemployment in New York

Upstateblog also has an interesting rundown of the most recent unemployment data in New York, by region.

Categories: General

Another Take on the Common Cause Report

We've already blogged on the Common Cause report on the abuse of soft money contributions in New York (which are banned on the federal level). Upstateblog takes a look at this report and says among the worst culprits are hospitals and unions.

Categories: General, Campaign Finance

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Silver Takes on the Times

Speaker Silver makes a convincing case that the Times takes too broad a swipe at the state legislature for failing to close loopholes in the state's campaign finance reforms. There's no question that the Assembly has repeatedly passed a campaign finance bill that, while far from perfect, would be an improvement over the current state of affairs. For this, the Assembly certainly deserves credit. The same cannot be said for the Senate.

Of course, if the Senate were to pass its own campaign finance bill, it is far from certain -- even then -- that New York would get real campaign finance reform. One of the many reasons reform is so hard to get in New York is that even when both houses pass similar bills, conference committees are extremely rare (unlike in Congress and many other state legislatures, there is no mechanism to ensure that they occur). Without a conference committee -- a public meeting between members of each chamber to hash out the differences in similar bills -- there is no compromise between the chambers (unless Silver and Bruno get together), and no new law to send to the Governor. All too often, the result is that everyone can claim to be a reformer, but no reform actually gets passed.

But the Assembly can make sure one bit of reform does get done soon -- and it can do it without having to compromise with the Senate: Rules Reform. In January, the Assembly can make sure that it adopts new legislative rules for its chamber, to make it more transparent, deliberative and accountable to the people of New York. It can transcribe committee meetings, so that New Yorkers see where their Assemblymembers stand on issues. It can make it easier for bills to get out of committee and onto the chamber floor for debate and a vote, so that there is actual public debate and votes on more issues that New Yorkers really care about. There's so much it can do! -- and none of it involves waiting for the Senate to finally jump on board.

Categories: General, Campaign Finance, Legislative Rules

Friday, August 18, 2006

All White Then

Liz Benjamin notes that, if confirmed, Governor Pataki's choice to replace Justice George Bundy (who had wanted to stay on the court and is African American) will leave the Court of Appeals with an all-white bench for the first time in many years.

Governor Pataki's choice, Judge Eugene F. Piggot, Jr., is currently a Judge in the Appellate Division, 4th Department.

Categories: General, Judicial Selection

The Soft Money Loophole

Common Cause has released a report that reveals yet another way that entities have circumvented New York's incredibly lax campaign finance laws.

"Soft Money" is theoretically provided to political parties for "party building purposes." At the Federal level, soft money contributions are banned. In New York, they are unlimited.

As Common Cause notes, "Parties are not supposed to use [soft] money to support particular candidates, but this legal barrier does not hold up in practice." There have been $53.2 million in soft money contributions since 1999, according to the report.

That's one heck of a loophole.

Categories: General, Campaign Finance

NY Post on Spitzer the Reformer

The New York Post editorial board provides us with their impression of Eliot Spitzer after meeting with him on Wednesday:

Within "30 to 60 days" of his taking office, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer insists, New Yorkers will see evidence of "fundamental change" in Albany.

Spitzer vowed to start fixing the state's "broken politics" from Day One.

The Post notes that if elected, Spitzer is likely to find formidable resistance to implementing the key reforms he highlighted for them, like ending district gerrymandering and ensuring greater transparency. On the other hand, the Post notes, the potential benefits to Spitzer and New York are tremendous:

But if he does break the mold, change the game, end Albany's legal corruption and perverted politics - well, that's something else entirely.

His future, as they say, will be ahead of him.

New York's, too.

Categories: General

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Raising and Spending in New York

Senator Liz Kreuger applauds the Albany Times Union for its editorial excoriating the Legislature for failing to close loopholes in the state's campaign finance laws. But, that's only half the story, she says:

Not only are there loopholes in how legislators like myself raise campaign funds, but the rules outlining how those funds can be spent are among the most lax in the country.

Good for her. It's something we've been saying for months.

Categories: General, Campaign Finance

Suozzi's Campaing Finance Proposal

Capitol Confidential reports on Suozzi's recent campaing finance plan:

*Public matching funds
*$2,100 individual contribution limit for all offices
*Ban on contributions to non-candidate committees and political parties by unions, corporations, partnerships and LLCs
*Ban on gifts from all registered lobbyists
*Prohibition on “rolling over” funds from one campaign to another

Capitol Confidential notes that Suozzi himself has "rolled over" funds -- more than $3 million from his county executive campaign committee to his gubernatorial committee.

Categories: General, Campaign Finance

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

New York's New Voting Machines

Jay Gallager reports in today's Journal News that the State Board of Elections has approved a plan that would allow the State to comply with the Help America Vote Act and purchase new machines by 2007. That's a year behind schedule, and State officials are already warning that they might not even make this new deadline.

The Brennan Center has already issued our security report on electronic voting machines. We plan to issue three more reports on electronic voting machines very soon. Some of it will be particularly relevant to New York. Watch for it. . . .

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Buffalo, Ontario?

Buffalo Pundit notes that, for the THIRD TIME this summer, Buffalo residents will be unable to watch a state-wide debate (in this case among the Democractic AG candidates). This is a bit of an outrage, considering how involved Buffalo residents have been in efforts to reform the way New York State government works.

It also seems a little absurd given that Buffalo is, um, you know, the second largest city in New York State.

Answers to the Times' Questions

Urban Elephants posed many of the Times's "must ask" questions to Republican candidates for state offices. Their answers can be found here and here.

Categories: General

Monday, August 14, 2006

When Limits Aren't Limits, the Times Gets Angry

The New York Times editorializes about its story last week, which showed that New York's very relaxed campaign finance laws are even worse than they might appear at first glance.

Using LLCs, wealthy individuals can evade New York's already laughable campaign finance limits ($50,100 compared to the Federal Governments $2100), and provide candidates with hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Times echoes our annoyance that, when they get into office, New York's politicians just don't seem to have the will to wean themselves from this trough:

It is deeply frustrating to watch New York’s politicians routinely proclaim how eager they are to reform campaign financing even as they rake in the money. Of course they never manage to clean things up. Gov. George Pataki, for instance, has been promising campaign finance reform since 1998. As things stand now, it is highly unlikely that this will be part of his legacy when his 12 years in office come to close in December.

Categories: General, Campaign Finance

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Politicians Don't Die. . .

they just become lobbyists. Here's an interesting note from Liz Benjamin in Capitol Confidential, which provides more evidence (as if any was needed) of how much the business of politics and lobbying overlap in New York: Patrick McCarthy, former executive director of the State GOP has made partner at the lobbying firm headed by Patricia Lynch, the former top aide to Speaker Silver.

More, other principles in the lobbying firm include:

Christopher Grimaldi, former assistant counsel to Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno; and Allison Lee, most recently the ex-executive director of the Association of Public Broadcasting Stations of NY (and wife of U.S. Rep, Maurice Hinchey); and Gerald D. Jennings, son of Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings.

Who said bipartisanship was dead?

Categories: General

Friday, August 11, 2006

Spitzer on Procedural Reform

It isn't sexy, but we've been pushing procedural reform, particularly in the State Legislature, for a long time now. The Plattsburgh Press Republican interviewed Elliot Spitzer the other day, and was left with the impression that this was something the Attorney General wants New Yorkers to know he cares about too:

Making the people of New York realize that procedural change is crucial to the smooth functioning of state government will compel them to insist on reform. They will not tolerate, for example, the notorious "three men in a room" dictating the pace and quality of budget creation that has yielded so much inertia for two decades. They will not tolerate the swelling of Medicaid costs, generally passed along to local taxpayers. Nor will they tolerate lobbyists having predominance over good public policy and a committee system run awry.

But, he was asked, could he see himself, as governor, standing nose to nose with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, two veterans of the system in which those practices were not just accepted but hailed, and telling them it must be dismantled?

"Yes," he answered unflinchingly, as if to think otherwise would be folly.

Hat tip: UpstateBlog

Categories: General, Rules Reform

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Cuomo on Redistricting

The Times Union seems almost giddy at candidate Andrew Cuomo's promise to use the AG's office as a "bully pulpit" for redistricting reform.

Categories: General, Redistricting

Dysfunction and the Power Grid

The Journal News blames the Legislature for failing to act on improving the distribution of electricity and warns a federal takeover of the issue could be coming. Key graphs:

"A U.S. Department of Energy report puts New York state on notice: Get moving on improving the distribution of electricity to reduce "critical congestion" on the power grid, or we'll come and do it for you. Consider the report a cannon ball across the bow of home rule.

...New York's law on locating power plants expired in 2002 and the Legislature, in typical New York dysfunction, has not been able to agree on a new one. That, despite warning after warning that the state needs more power to meet future growth from the New York Power Authority, Independent Power Producers of New York and the New York Independent System Operator, which is responsible for ensuring a reliable power supply.

"...The Energy Department is expected to begin designating electricity transmission corridors by the end of the year. Will that give the procrastinators in Albany a jolt into realizing that in-state cooperation, and action, are better than federal intervention? Excuse us for being wary."

Categories: General

Silver Says: It's Bruno's fault

No surprise here: Speaker Silver echoes NYPIRG's take (see post below) that the failure to pass effective campaign finance reform in New York is all the fault of the Senate.

Categories: General, Campaign Finance

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lieberman/Lamont Free Zone

The rest of the blogosphere may be focused on last night's election results in Connecticut, but here at ReformNY, we're all New York, all the time.

And while we're on the subject of New York, take a look at our friend Blair Horner's letter to the Times Union, regarding their August 1 Editorial on campaign finance reform. Blair echoes the frustration of the Times Union Editorial Board after reading the Brennan Center's recently released campaign finance report (in a nutshell, New York's campaign finance laws are really, really pathetic).

But he takes issue with the paper over where the blame lies. Specifically, he commends the Assembly on its efforts in this area, and says the failure to pass real campaign finance reform legislation lies squarely on the shoulders of the Senate.

Categories: General, Campaign Finance Reform

Reform on Their Minds

Voters in Buffalo will be thinking about reform when casting their votes this November.

Categories: General

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hearst v. Albany Opacity

On Saturday, the Times Union reported that six reform groups, including the Brennan Center, filed a "friend of the court" brief supporting the paper in its suit (Hearst v. Silver and Bruno, Index No. 4001-06) against Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, R-Brunswick, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan.

In short, the leaders have turned down the Times Union's Freedom of Information Law requests for full disclosure of documents showing how lawmakers carve up hundreds of millions of dollars of "member items" (an issue the Times Union has doggedly covered and we have blogged about here). The leaders released some documents related to the member items, but censored the names of the legislators who asked for each grant.

Last week, Majority Leader Bruno and Assembly Speaker Silver, both being represented by Attorney General Spitzer, filed their opposition to the Times Union's petition. It's an extraordinary document with an absurd argument. Put as simply as possible, the Leaders seem to be saying that the speech and debate clause of the state constitution bars any court from enforcing a FOI request of lawmakers. Therefore, the argument goes, the identity of a lawmaker who arranges member items is exempt from the Legislature's Freedom of Information Law.

The implications of this argument are far reaching. It suggests that no one could ever make the Legislature obey its own FOI Law to obtain access to anything -- no matter what the reason, and regardless of the surrounding circumstance.

So much for transparency in Albany.

Needless to say, we intend to work with the Times Union to make sure this argument doesn't prevail.

Update: The Leaders' Memo in Opposition to the Times Union petition can be found here.

Categories: General

Sunday, August 06, 2006

More Questions From the Times

The New York Times has seven more questions for candidates running for office in New York this year. They are all worth a look.

We'd like to focus on one of them:

Do legislators deserve a pay raise?

The Times says "no way." We say that before the state legislature even considers giving itself a pay raise, it must pass real rules reform. Without real rules reform, legislators can answer the other six questions any way they want -- it will be very difficult for the voters to hold them accountable in two years. Right now, there is almost no transparency or accountability in the State Legislature. Minutes and reports from committee meetings are almost non-existent, hearings on bills are rarely held, and controversial issues almost never make it to the chamber floor for debate or a vote. The Senate and Assembly continue to pass bills coming to the floor at a rate of nearly 100%, very often unanimously.

How do I know what my legislator has done if none of the issues I care about are ever publicly aired?

Categories: General, Rules Reform

Friday, August 04, 2006

Campaign Finance Limits? What Limits?

The New York Times leads with a story today that shows how wealthy donors circumvent New York's already ridiculously high $50,100 single donor limits. By setting up limited liability corporations, these donors give candidates far more than this amount. Key graph:

In fact, this year’s statewide political campaigns are awash with donations from L.L.C.’s, which are business entities that can be set up for as little as a couple of hundred dollars and provide special tax benefits and limits on financial liability. Six of the eight major-party candidates for governor or attorney general have taken donations from individuals who have contributed the maximum and then donated further through L.L.C.’s.

The amazing thing about this phenomenon is that the current donation limits in place in New York are among the weakest in the nation. The Times notes:

New York’s limit of $50,100 per candidate is already the highest among the 37 states that have a donation limit and far above the $2,100 limit for federal campaigns, according to a recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law. While corporations have a donation limit of $5,000, L.L.C.’s have the same limit as individuals in New York State.

In tightening restrictions on these donations, regulators at both the federal level and in New York City have either banned such giving through L.L.C.’s donations or factored them in with individual donation limits.

Needless to say, a number of major candidates decry the loophole, but most have accepted such donations.

Categories: General, Campaign Finance

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Sean Patrick Maloney is Shocked Too

From Capitol Confidential, we learn that AG candidate Maloney has called for increased oversight of the Public Service Commission, claiming it is full of patronage appointments:

Maloney noted three of the four PSC commissioners (paid $109,800) and PSC Chairman Bill Flynn (paid $127,000) are Republican donors. The most recently appointed commissioner - Cheryl Buley - is married to lobbyist Jeff Buley, whose business partner is Al Pirro, husband of Republican AG candidate Jeanine Pirro.

Maloney alleged that Cheryl Buley, a former PR executive and one-time state Racing and Wagering Board member, doesn’t have the experience to be a PSC commissioner, and called her “New York’s Mike Brown” (the disgraced former FEMA head who became the poster child of the botched federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

For those of you who aren't in the know, the Public Service Commission "regulates the state's electric, gas, steam, telecommunications, and water utilities."

We wonder what recent events might have brought the commission into Maloney's sights?

In any event, Liz Benjamin's entire blog post on the accusations is worth a read.

Categories: General, Campaign Finance, Ethics

Have we mentioned that we're shocked?

Pataki gives a big state job to the daughter of one of his most loyal backers.

Categories: General

Calling Eliot Spitzer

Donn Esmonde wants more specifics and evidence from Eliot Spitzer that he plans to institute real reforms when and if he gets to the Governor's Mansion. And he wants him to debate Suozzi in Buffalo.

Update: The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle echoes Mr. Esmonde's call.

Categories: General

Call for New Leadership

Mark Schroder, a Democrat Assemblyman from Buffalo calls for new leadership in the House and Senate to usher in reform under a new Governor.

Categories: General

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Bankrupting New York's Businesses

Upstateblog also links to this excellent essay by Dan Richardson, of Hamilton Manor and Latta Road Nursing Homes in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Richardson decries the fact that there has been no public debate in the legislature on comprehensive workmen's compensation reform or on tort reform of the "scaffold law," which he says makes liability insurance unaffordable for many small businesses.

Given how outraged many small businesses are about these costs, it is rather amazing that none of the many reform bills proposed by either party addressing either issue has been the subject of a public debate on the floor of either chamber. Or it would be rather amazing, if we were talking about some other state's legislature. As Richardson notes, this is New York, where debate and amendment of bills on the legislative floor is virtually non-existent. Says Richardson:

If I ran my business this way, with no debate on issues of merit, no discussion of ways to improve quality, without an open door where criticisms are welcome, I would be out of business, bankrupt. Well, I say that this sclerotic process in Albany is bankrupting New York. It's high time we hold our legislators accountable for the lack of debate and action on issues critical to our citizens and businesses alike.

Fortunately, even in New York, we get that chance every couple of years.

Categories: General, Legislative Rules

An Anchor Around New York's Neck

In yesterday's Syracuse Post-Standard, E.J. McMahon of the Manhattan Institute blames New York's "ponderous government" for the State's declining economic fortunes. He sees reason for hope -- namely, an impressive number of excellent colleges and universities, recently lowered taxes on industry and cheap housing upstate -- but believes New York's government is an impediment to real growth. The take is politically conservative (smaller government is better government) as one would expect from the Manhattan Institute. But whatever your political persuasion, it's worth a read. (Hat tip: upstateblog)

Categories: General

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Weakest and Worthless

That's the judgment of the Albany Times Union on New York's campaign finance laws, in a scathing editorial. Citing the Brennan Center's recently released campaign finance report, the Times Union notes:

It stands to reason, of course, that campaign finance laws so tilted toward incumbents would help create that mess of a Legislature. But the mockery that's on the books in New York does even more damage than that. Re-election of any assemblyman or senator who wants it is all but assured. Just as troubling is the level of influence an almost unregulated system gives the special interests and corporations that donate all that money to legislators and other officeholders.

Categories: General, Campaign Finance

A Warm Relationship?

The Daily News and Capitol Confidential cover a report from Common Cause NY that reveals the cozy relationship between the state's power companies and the legislators that are supposed to regulate and oversee them. Specifically, the energy industry has spent $12 million since 2003 on lobbying and campaign contributions to key state-level politicians. Not suprisingly, Con Edison, which has been in so much hot water lately, was among the biggest givers.

Categories: General, Campaign Finance