Housekeeping Accounts: A Back Door for Special Interest Cash in Albany?

Today Common Cause/NY released the latest in the “Moreland Monday” series: an analysis of soft money giving to so called “housekeeping” accounts. Although such accounts are designed for party building, they are routinely used by political parties to obtain contributions from corporations, unions, and wealthy individuals that circumvent the contribution limits on political giving. In so doing, these entities are able to give unlimited sums of cash, which are then used by the parties to directly influence the outcome of elections.

See the full report.

“It’s obvious to Common Cause/NY that housekeeping accounts are a back door for big dollar special interests to give unlimited sums of cash for campaign purposes: a direct violation of the campaign finance law. Armed with only their constitutional right to vote and a change purse by comparison, New Yorkers deserve to know what $98 million buys for Bloomberg, Verizon, SEIU 1199, Wal-Mart and others. The Moreland Commission should take a hard look at the expenditures from housekeeping accounts at both the state and county levels,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.

“New York State’s campaign finance laws are full of holes, and this report shows the incredible amount of money pouring through,” said Jesse Laymon of Citizen Action of New York, speaking on behalf of the Fair Elections campaign. “The Moreland Commission can only address these failures with a complete overhaul of the system, and a shift to publicly financed elections.”

Continue reading

Analysis of REBNY Contributions Raises Serious Issues for Commission to Consider

A new “Moreland Monday” analysis released today by Common Cause/NY is raising serious questions about the potential influence of tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions on public policy relating to real estate and development in New York City. Since 2005, REBNY (Real Estate Board of NY) and the 37 companies comprising its leadership have contributed $43.9 million to state and local candidates, committees, and PACs. REBNY’s contributions have increased in recent election cycles, with $17.1 million given since 2011 alone.  

Read the full report.

The Fair Elections for New York campaign is calling on the newly created Moreland Commission to subpoena all relevant information related to contributions as part of their sweeping investigation of corruption in New York State.

Common Cause/NY’s analysis reveals that the State Senate is the top target of REBNY money and that the overwhelming majority flows to lawmakers who represent districts outside of New York City: Since 2011, REBNY and its leadership have given $3.2 million to candidates and committees in the State Senate. Over 73% of contributions to candidates went to districts outside of New York City. Similarly, over $2.4 million (75%) went to Senate Republicans. By comparison, Senate Democrats received $500,000 while the four-member Independent Democratic Conference received $308,000.  

In the longer term since 2005, REBNY and its leadership have given over $11.7 million to candidates and committees in the State Senate, overwhelmingly concentrated to Republicans. REBNY has given less to the State Assembly where party control is safe for the Democrats: $2.1 million in total, with 84% going to Assembly Democrats.  

Continue reading

Pro-Fracking Contributions Raises Serious Questions for Commission to Investigate

A new “Moreland Monday” analysis released today by Common Cause/NY is raising serious questions about the potential influence of millions of dollars in campaign contributions on public policy relating to natural gas fracking in New York. The analysis of campaign contributions from donors with an interest in natural gas drilling in New York State revealed that from January 2007 to March 2013 these interests, totaling 183 entities, contributed over $14 million to state and local politicians and parties. The Fair Elections for New York campaign is calling on the newly created Moreland Commission to subpoena all relevant information related to contributions as part of their sweeping investigation of corruption in New York State.

The Common Cause/NY analysis shows that the leading recipients of pro-fracking money in the State Legislature are the most vocal supporters of its expansion in New York, with fracking interest money concentrating largely on Senators from Western New York and the Southern Tier and the leadership in the Assembly.

 

(Download full analysis, including data tables)

“Powerful businesses and industries which stand to benefit from fracking use campaign contributions to gain influence with their local lawmakers, candidates, and party organizations. We see a wide spectrum of fracking related interests taking full advantage of New York’s lax campaign finance laws in the hope of a future payday if fracking is permitted. ” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.

The Fair Elections for New York campaign released the following statement in response to the Common Cause/NY analysis: “This is precisely why Governor Cuomo and Attorney General Schneiderman created this Moreland Commission: to investigate the abuse of the campaign finance system by special interests who are looking to influence public policy with their deep pockets. The Fair Elections for New York campaign is calling for the Moreland Commission to use their sweeping powers to subpoena all relevant information related to these campaign contributions, and these special interests and members of the legislature should have to testify under oath about the decisions they have made as public servants, and whether these contributions influenced those decisions.”

Complete contribution data can be found on the spreadsheets accompanying this release and online at www.commoncause.org/ny/deepdrillingdeeppockets

Continue reading