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Common Cause

  • Ahead of Election Day, Comptroller Audit Highlights Board of Elections Dysfunction

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    Comptroller Scott Stringer (photo courtesy of Comptroller's office)


    Just four days before voters head to the polls on Tuesday, November 7, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer released a damning report highlighting the dysfunctional election operations of the New York City Board of Elections, a quasi-city agency that administers elections in the city.

    Stringer’s audit was launched in response to the BOE’s purge of more than 117,000 voters from the rolls in Brooklyn last year, ahead of the April presidential primary. The purge prompted widespread outrage, triggering an investigation by the

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  • Proposal Would Boost Public Campaign Matching Funds

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    Council Member Ben Kallos (photo: @NYCCouncil)


    A bill heard by the City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations on Thursday aims to further limit the influence of big-dollar donations and special interests in city elections. The bill, co-sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, who chairs the committee, would tweak the city’s public campaign finance system by removing a cap on public funds disbursed to candidate campaigns by the Campaign Finance Board (CFB).

    The city’s campaign finance system is held up as a national model that incentivizes small

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  • Cuomo Punts Voting Reform to ‘After the Budget’

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    Gov. Cuomo (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


    Governor Andrew Cuomo all but confirmed Tuesday that major voting reforms he’s proposed would not be part of the new state budget, which is due by April 1.

    In January, Cuomo outlined the “Democracy Project” as part of his 2017 State of the State agenda, and included its widely prized measures like early voting, same-day voter registration, and an enhanced form of automatic voter registration in one of his budget bills. But, on Tuesday Cuomo indicated that the push to

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  • De Blasio Undermines Own ‘Highest Standards' Claim

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    Mayor de Blasio (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)


    In a surprise move on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared during a NY1 television appearance that going forward his communications with five outside advisors would be subject to public disclosure. In doing so, the mayor betrayed his own rhetoric from a week prior when he vigorously defended his actions in keeping those communications

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  • 22 Campaign Finance Bills to Move Through City Council 'Soon,' Speaker Says

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    Speaker Mark-Viverito (photo: @NYCCouncil)


    Within the next two months, the City Council is expected to vote on a large legislative package that would alter the city’s campaign finance system in a variety of ways and regulate donations to political nonprofits, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said this week. Some of the proposals and the timing of their likely passage have raised concerns, though, that the Council is weakening the city’s model campaign finance system, pushing some reforms through after too long a wait and rushing other, newer bills through just in time for the next

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  • State Pay Commission Implodes as Cuomo Appointees Effectively Kill Salary Increases

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    State pay commission panelists at final meeting, Nov. 15, 2016


    The final meeting of the state commission tasked with recommending pay raises for executive branch employees and state legislators was marred by disagreement and accusations, and failed to produce any results on Tuesday. It appears that the panel will be disbanded without taking any substantive action.

    In a chamber at the New York City Bar Association in midtown, members of the New York State Commission on Legislative, Judicial, & Executive

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  • With No Clear Next Election, Council Speaker Raises and Spends

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    Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (photo: William Alatriste)


    As the calendar hurtles toward 2017, one of the big New York City political questions is what the future holds for Melissa Mark-Viverito, the speaker of the City Council. Mark-Viverito will be term-limited out of office at the end of next year and while she has indicated that she may continue to be active in city politics, there is no clear next step for her, especially in terms of elected office.

    Mark-Viverito, a Democrat, told ...

  • For 2017 Effect, Time Running Out for Campaign Finance Bills in Limbo

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    above: Melissa Mark-Viverito; below: Ben Kallos (photos by William Alatriste)


    New York City’s campaign finance system, particularly its public matching funds program, is considered a national model, and it stays that way by being regularly updated and modernized. The Campaign Finance Board issues reports following each election analyzing ways to plug holes in the system and bolster the already-robust provisions of the relevant law.

    But, the next city election cycle, in 2017, may come and go without any

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  • Campaign Finance Board Rules In Mayor’s Favor While Criticizing Him

     Campaign Finance Board RUles

    (Credit: Rob Bennett/Mayoral Photography Office)


    The New York City Campaign Finance Board sent a somewhat mixed message to Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday over the nonprofit group set up by his allies to promote his progressive policies.

    At a public meeting in Downtown Manhattan, the CFB issued a determination that de Blasio’s fundraising for the Campaign for One New York, a group

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  • Hearing Advances Reforms to City Campaign Finance System

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    Council Member Ben Kallos (photo: William Alatriste)


    As Mayor Bill de Blasio is mired in controversy over his fundraising activities and proximity to lobbyists, the City Council is moving on bills to reduce the possibility of ‘pay-to-play’ campaign financing and make significant tweaks to strengthen an already-robust public-matching system.

    The Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations held a hearing on Monday to examine ...

  • Everyone Agrees Albany Needs Ethics Reform, Except the People Who Matter Most

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    Heastie, Cuomo, Flanagan (l-r) (photo via The Governor's Office)


    "Top of my agenda is going to be ethics reform," said Governor Andrew Cuomo, speaking on NY1 on Jan. 3. "We have done a lot in Albany, but we haven't done enough. And I'm going to push the legislature very hard to adopt more aggressive ethics legislation, more disclosure, more enforcement, etcetera."

    While the governor

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  • In Albany, Sunshine Week Starts with Darkness

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    Heastie, Cuomo, & Flanagan (l-r) in 2015 (photo via The Governor's Office) 


    The first Sunshine Week following the convictions of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos got off to an inauspicious start Monday as representatives of the state's major good government groups gathered in Albany to give their evaluation of the ethics reforms put forward in the one-house budgets released by the Assembly and Senate majorities over the weekend.

    "Unfortunately with a late Friday release what we're

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  • Special Election Shows Need for Democratization

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    Charles Youn, executive director of KALCA, speaks at a press conference


    Any good democracy should reflect a society’s diversity in its leadership. The undemocratic way in which the 65th Assembly District special election is unfolding should galvanize all communities, particularly underrepresented ones, to push for reforms and encourage underrepresented New Yorkers to be more civically engaged.

    America does not always have accurate and inclusive representation in government. This is especially true in state legislatures. A few weeks ago...

  • After Iowa: Debates & Voting Dates Until New York

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    Gov. Cuomo votes (photo via The Governor's Office on flickr)


    "There's a lot of states ahead," Mayor Bill de Blasio said on MSNBC late Monday night from Iowa, where he spent the weekend campaigning for Hillary Clinton in her bid to become the Democratic nominee and next President of the United States.

    And de Blasio is right - there are 49 more states and the District of Columbia to vote before the primary season is over. New York will be the 37th state to hold a vote when April 19 comes around.

    As de Blasio spoke, it was still

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  • Once Rife with Problems, City Budget Process Now a Model for State System in Need of Reform

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    Governor Cuomo presents his 2014-2015 Executive Budget


    In 1975 New York City was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, having balanced its budget for years with massive borrowing and shady accounting tricks. Banks were at the point where they would lend no more. Mayor Abe Beame had written the announcement of the city's default. City lawyers were in State Supreme Court filing a petition for bankruptcy and police were prepared to serve

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  • New York One Signature Away from Calling for Overturn of Citizens United

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    (photo: nysenate.gov)


    In a landmark year for corruption in the state legislature, 2015 saw the arrest and conviction of two of the most powerful political leaders in New York. A crescendo of voices across the state -- from good government watchdogs to lawmakers -- expressed outrage and demanded stronger ethics laws and campaign finance reforms. In one sense, Albany now has the opportunity to put its money where its mouth is -- and all it needs is one signature.  

    New York is one signatory away from becoming the 17th state in the country to

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  • Good Government Groups Point to New Evidence of Need for Major Ethics Reform

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    L-R: Silver, Cuomo & Skelos in 2011 (photo via the governor's office) 


    New York's leading good government groups gathered at Manhattan's Foley Square Wednesday to call on the New York State legislature and the governor to take immediate action to reform public ethics laws. The press conference, held in the shadows of a federal courthouse where one of New York’s most

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  • Despite Unprecedented Scandal, Calls for Special Ethics Session Fall on Deaf Ears

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    Recently convicted former Sen. John Sampson (photo: @SampsonVictory)


    It would reason to think that the conviction of two legislative leaders would lead to a flurry of anti-corruption activity in any state capital. But in Albany, where the new normal appears to involve multiple convictions and indictments of sitting lawmakers every year, last week's crime blotter appears to have barely turned a head. The convictions of Republican Senate Deputy Leader Tom Libous and Democratic Sen. John Sampson, a former Majority Leader, on

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  • Queens Library Scandal Spurs Nonprofit Oversight Bill

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    CM Crowley at a City Hall rally (photo: @magghayes)


    On the heels of New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer's report on Queens library executives engaging in questionable practices, Queens Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley is renewing her push for greater oversight of officers of city-funded nonprofit organizations.

    Crowley's ...

  • Cuomo Seizes on Wage Issue as Legislature Sits Paralyzed by Scandal, Partisanship

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    Gov. Cuomo at a minimum wage rally (Office of the Governor - Kevin P. Coughlin)


    "Do we have any members of labor in the house today? I can't hear you!" Gov. Andrew Cuomo shouted to a crowd of union members holding signs touting the "Fight for $15." Cuomo held a large rally in Manhattan's Union Square earlier this month as he announced he had instructed his labor commissioner to empanel a wage board to consider upping the minimum wage for fast food workers.

  • Overwhelmingly Passed Again by Assembly, Bill to Close LLC Loophole Appears Iced by Senate

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    Sen. Daniel Squadron (photo: @DanielSquadron)


    On Tuesday the state Assembly passed a bill to close the controversial LLC loophole at the center of the federal corruption cases against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Both men - a Democrat and a Republican, respectively - were recently arrested and subsequently stepped down from their powerful leadership posts. Later in the evening Tuesday, the Senate’s version of the bill to close the loophole that allows money

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  • Community Board Reform Bills, Including on Term Limits, to Be Heard

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    CMs Dromm, middle, and Kallos, right, have intro'd reform bills (photo: William Alatriste)


    At a hearing of the City Council's Committee on Governmental Operations Thursday, issues of community board function will be taken up through bills to introduce term limits for board members and to add professional urban planners to board staff.

    The term-limit bill, introduced

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  • Left Out of Ethics Deal, LLC Loophole Faces Renewed Scrutiny

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    Gov. Cuomo & Speaker Heastie shake on an ethics deal (photo: Governor's Office via flickr)


    The New York State Board of Elections opened up a floodgate in 1996, allowing cash to flow virtually unabated to political candidates. The BOE issued a ruling that allowed limited liability corporations, or LLCs, to be treated as individual donors and individuals to donate unlimited funds to candidates for state-level offices by creating multiple LLCs. Efforts to change the law in the Legislature have failed miserably and

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