Category Archives: Campaign Finance Reform

Business Council Responds to Times Union Editorial

Note: The following ran in the May 1, 2015 edition of The Albany Times Union. We wanted to post it here for readers who are unable to access it behind the Times Union’s paywall.

We read with interest your recent editorial, “Board of Elections Shame” (April 19, 2015) regarding contributions by limited liability companies. Unfortunately, you misstated our position and ignored the much broader issue of securing a level playing field for political advocacy.

Contrary to your comments, The Business Council was not providing cover for the Board of Elections, or anyone else. A careful reading of our letter would show that we advocated neither for nor against the so-called LLC loophole. We merely stated that redefining limited liability companies as corporations under state election law is beyond the regulatory authority of the board of elections.

We believe that donations by businesses, whether as corporations or LLCs, are a form of speech protected by the First Amendment. As an organization, the bigger issue here is whether state laws pertaining to campaign fundraising and contributions are skewed to favor one set of interests over another. We would argue they are, and that unions are coming out on top. The LLC issue has gained focus as part of a broader effort by special interests and “good government” groups seeking to further restrict political spending by business. They do this while ignoring other provisions of the election law that give inherent advantages to employee unions and other special interests. These advantages include the lack of aggregate spending limits, the use of payroll withholding to fund union PACs, and the ability to make non-monetary contributions in terms of volunteers and other campaign apparatus to political causes they support.

A review of campaign filings in New York shows significant contributions by labor unions and notable left of center advocates that rival those by LLCs. Yet for some reason, those high contributions never seem to draw the ire of the aforementioned “good government” groups.

It is The Business Council’s contention that any election law reform should be broad-based, and provide a level playing field for divergent political viewpoints.

Heather C. Briccetti, Esq.
President and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Inc.

Commentary: Another way to make New Yorkers pay more for something they don’t want or need

Nobody enjoys receiving annoying automated “robocalls” or negative campaign mailers every time an election rolls around. Imagine if those same voters had to foot the bill for the overwhelming barrage of unwanted political solicitations through taxpayer-funded campaigns. Estimates of the impact to taxpayers ranges from $125 million to more than $300 million per election cycle.

That is money that could be better spent on schools, roads, bridges, public protection, or reduced taxes.

The proponents of public funding offer it as a panacea for addressing corruption and a way to invigorate democracy.

New York City has had public funding since 1988 and based on that experience, public funding misses the mark.

Public funding has done little to curb corruption; instead it has proven to be a new source of misdeeds. For example, last year, one New York City Council member was indicted for appropriating $11,500 in public matching funds through a shell company and a nonprofit that he controlled. Some of the taxpayer money that he siphoned off went to the purchase of a $750 Louis Vuitton handbag.

If voter turnout is a measure of a democracy’s strength, then public funding has failed that test as well. In the most recent New York City mayoral election, a record low 24 percent of registered voters participated. Barely 1 million of the 4.3 million registered voters cast a ballot in a city of nearly 8.5 million people.

Worse yet, taxpayer funded campaigns have not resulted in more competitive elections. Out of 51 New York City council general election races in 2013, only one was considered competitive. In 2009 races, only two general election races were considered competitive.
Some of the strongest voices in support of public funding are public employee unions, which are also advocating ”reforms” that would significantly limit the voice of business in the political process by reducing business contributions from the current $5,000 per candidate limit to $1,000. The largest single source of campaign spending has been labor organizations and in particular, public employee unions. These proposals do nothing to limit those contributions.

Public employee union political contributions in the election process should be of particular concern to the public. As Victor Gotbaum, a former leader of District Council 37 of the AFSCME in New York City once boasted: “We have the ability, in a sense, to elect our own boss.”

There are better approaches to reform. For example, the State Constitution should be amended to allow four-year legislative terms as a means to reduce the permanent campaign cycle and the seemingly endless cycle of fundraising.

Such a reform would produce real change without burdening taxpayers with additional government spending or unreasonably limiting political speech in the name of reform.

Final New York state budget needs to grow jobs and economy

As the Governor and New York State Legislature progress in final budget negotiations, The Business Council of New York State, Inc. is calling for a final state budget that boost jobs and New York’s economy.

“Job creation and economic growth are key to building strong communities in New York,” said Heather C. Briccetti, Esq., president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Inc. “Continuing to restrain spending, implementing broad-based tax reform and mandate relief need to be a priority for a final state budget.”

The Council also debuted a new ad, “Help New York’s economy grow,” focusing on how tax cuts will help improve New York’s economy. Watch the ad below.

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Business Council Vice President of Government Affairs Ken Pokalsky’s letter to the editor was published in the Albany Times Union. Read his letter that outlines how increasing taxes won’t help create jobs in New York how tax cuts would help create a more competitive economic climate to generate good-paying jobs and healthier communities.

A study earlier this year by The Public Policy Institute of New York State, Inc. (PPI), “Analysis of Economic Impacts of New York Corporate Income Tax Reform,” showed that when the tax reforms are fully adopted, major business and employment sectors will grow including construction, trades and business service sectors, manufacturing, and financial services.

Among the other issues of concern to The Business Council in a final state budget: Paid Family Leave, Out-of-Network Mandates, Energy Tax, Campaign Finance Reform, Brownfields, and education and tourism funding. Read more on The Business Council’s website.

New York’s millionaire PACs

Capital New York is reporting that of the nearly 2,000 political action committees in New York that reported activity in the 2013 general election, eight ended the year with a balance of more than $1 million.

This doesn’t include committees that didn’t actively participate in the 2013 campaigns, whose fund-raising activities won’t be disclosed till January.

Of the eight PAC’s with money left over, only one was a business PAC.

Read the full article on the Capital New York website.

Moreland Commission hearing in Albany

The Moreland Commission’s Tuesday, September 24, hearing from 6:00 p.m. –  9:00 p.m. in Albany has been moved to Meeting Room 6 on the Empire State Plaza concourse to allow for more attendees.

Tuesday’s hearing will focus on campaign finance, outside income of state elected officials and political party housekeeping accounts.

Various groups will present testimony related to campaign finance, outside income of state elected officials or political party housekeeping accounts.

Moreland Commission members leaked

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to make an announcement on the Moreland Commission today. The names of appointees were leaked to The New York Daily News yesterday. The 25 member commission will investigate ethics issues and is expected to focus heavily on election activities. The bipartisan panel will have subpoena power and will be comprised of 10 district attorneys, a former US attorney, and several law school professors.

Governor releases campaign finance legislation

Governor Cuomo released his campaign finance reform bill yesterday, proposing to overhaul election laws in New York and increase enforcement. Various reports say the legislation would decrease campaign limits, limit how much money political parties could give to  individual campaigns, and require faster disclosure of donors as elections near. The Governor is reportedly in Buffalo and Syracuse today to gain support this legislation. The Business Council is currently reviewing the bill language; keep an eye on our campaign finance reform page for an updated analysis in the near future.

JCOPE says financial disclosures by state officials are due on May 15

JCOPE official web bannerDisclosures to Reveal Values of Holdings, Income and Debt for the First Time

In a press release issued this week, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics announced that “financial disclosure forms to be filed this week by State officials will for the first time publicly reveal amounts of outside income, values of investments and outstanding debts. The new disclosures, pursuant to the Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011, will also reveal certain clients of public officials.”

That information comes during the spate of recent scandals which appear to have no end.

“Disclosure is a critical component to promoting trust in government and under recent reforms the new public disclosures will pull the curtain back on many of our State officials’ outside financial interests,” said Joint Commission Chair Daniel J. Horwitz.

With limited exceptions, those required to file publicly-available financial disclosure statements include State officers and employees in policy-making positions or who make an annual salary of more than $88,256, members of the Legislature, legislative employees, political party chairman in counties with a population of more than 300,000, and candidates for statewide office or a seat in the Legislature.

Click here to read more.

A breakdown of the wiretapping scandal

A story in the New York Times today provides a breakdown of exactly how the wiretapping scandal, that has sent many Albany legislators into a panic,  went down.  Former Senator Shirley Huntley agreed to tape colleagues in the hopes it would help her in a case that federal prosecuters had lodged against her. Huntley taped some of the most prominent elected officials in Queens and Brooklyn who were visiting her home.

Read the full story online.