Bill Mahoney Tag All blog entries tagged as Bill Mahoney Fri, 25 Jul 2014 23:37:02 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb As Cuomo's Cash Flows

Campaign financing might not have been the first thing Gov. Andrew Cuomo wanted to discuss today.

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Cuomo debuted a campaign finance reform proposal late in the legislative session this year without much of a public push and watched the bill arrive stillborn.

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Now, with the July campaign finance filiing deadline having come and gone, Cuomo's cash and how he raises it is a major topic of discussion.

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What stood out to many reporters and insiders was that much of Cuomo's cash comes from large donors who control limited liability corporations. The donors give as individuals and through their LLCs and to organizations that support him. This allows major donors to skirt the state's already-lax limits on individual donations.

Today on The Capitol Press Room, Susan Arbetter asked Cuomo about using "loopholes" in the campaign finance law. "Those aren’t loopholes,” Cuomo said. “Those are the laws that are written.”

Cuomo then repeated a phrase he has often invoked: "I want to change the campaign finance system, but in the meantime I have to live within the campaign finance system."

Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group took to Twitter to dispute Cuomo's assertion that those loopholes are "written."

Mahoney tweeted: "LLC loophole is not the law as it is written. No mention of LLCs in law. It is a loophole created by the BoE."

Arbetter also asked Cuomo about criticsm from Democratic activist Bill Samuels that Cuomo should lead by example and that his failure to do so has crippled the push for campaign finance reform.

"I haven't thought of anything he's said, no," Cuomo responded in a blur of words.

Here is Mahoney's list of the 2,741 campaigns that have filed with the state Board of Elections:

]]> (David Howard King) State Tue, 16 Jul 2013 18:17:15 +0000
NY Senator Goes Bill Happy During Slow Session Democratic State Sen. Kevin Parker, of Brooklyn, isn't interested in hearing about a dysfunctional Legislature mired in corruption and inaction. He's been busy introducing bills — lots and lots of bills.

Parker introduced 43 bills on May 16 — the Senate's last day of unlimited bill introduction.

The 43 bills run the gamut of legislative matters:

  • S.5442 would require the state parks commissioner to create a New York Abolition and Civil Rights History Trail.
  • S.5523 would create a pilot program for social impact bonds designed to lower recidivism in juvenile justice programs
  • S.5386 would require creditors to inform debtors that written communications are available in large print.
  • S.5446 would allow same day voter registration and voting.

Last month, Bill Mahoney of The New York Public Interest Research Group estimated that the Legislature is on track to duplicate their performance from last year when they passed the fewest bills two-house bills since 1914.

And Mahoney says that, as of now, the Legislature is still on pace to perform just as badly.

"With eight session days to go in 2012 (the year with the fewest 2-house bills since at least 1914), they had passed 139 bills. With eight session days to go in 2013, they have passed 123," said Mahoney.

Mahoney notes that there is still time for bills to gain passage in a second house as 432 bills gained passage in a second house in eight days last year. "They are, however," said Mahoney, "currently running behind last year's pace."

It seems that a number of major legislative proposals including ethics reform, public financing of campaigns, reform of marijuana possession laws, The DREAM Act, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's women's equality legislation are likely to be jammed up in the Senate for one reason or another.

Members of the Independent Democratic Conference are being lobbied hard by a number of interests since they have publicly supported a number of these issues but have been unable to bring them to a vote. IDC leader Sen. Jeff Klein has to agree with Republican leader Sen. Dean Skelos on what comes to the floor for a vote and Skelos vehemently opposes public financing of campaigns and the abortion plank of the women's agenda.

It is likely that Republicans and the IDC will be eager to pass as many other bills as possible to deflect from criticism on failing to act on other major pieces of legislation.

]]> (David Howard King) State Thu, 06 Jun 2013 15:09:45 +0000
Two Slowest Legislative Sessions Since 1914 (So Far) Albany watchers thought last year's legislative session was slow. Not so fast! This year has been even slower.

Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group has provided us with a breakdown of bills passed this year and at this point last year. Keep in mind that Mahoney has previously noted that 2012 was a year "when they passed the fewest two-house bills since at least 1914."

Mahoney also notes, "Of course, the total number of bills is only one way to measure a session’s success. The session will ultimately be judged by what they do on the biggest issues, including their response to the crime wave rocking the Capitol."

Passed Senate: 295
2012 passed Senate through 5/19: 475

Passed Assembly: 235
2012 passed Assembly through 5/19: 366

Passed both houses: 66
2012 passed both houses through 5/19: 81

(5/19 was chosen since the legislature will presumably pass no bills between now and Sunday).

The Legislature could return to Albany and bring a flurry of bill-passing activity with it but signs aren't looking great for that at the moment. Looks like one of the first points of business for the Assembly will be to vote on expelling Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

]]> (David Howard King) State Fri, 17 May 2013 16:52:48 +0000
Hearing on NYC Public Campaign Financing Not So Public

Senate Republicans held a hearing today on the New York City public campaign finance system in what seemed as an attempt to beat back the push by a number of advocacy groups and legislators for the state to adopt a similar system. Things probably didn't work out as Republicans had intended.

Testimony was by invite=only and a number of good government groups protested their exclusion.

Outside the small hearing room, six Senate sergeants-at-arms guarded the doorway. The public was told there was no room for them and were barred entry.

"Let us in!" protesters shouted, the words thundering through the room from outside each time someone entered, causing consternation among speakers and legislators. Protesters discovered that the windows were open to the room and started their chant quietly outside the window. Some threw money and asked, "How much do you want to let us in? What does it cost?" Sergeants-at-arms were called in to drive away the protesters. They shut the window and eventually State Troopers responded.

The push for campaign finance reform has come as a slew of Demcoratic legislators have been arrested by federal authorities on corruption charges. But Senate Republicans continue to be the main benefactors of large corporate donations that are currently allowed in loopholes under current law.

David Keating of the Center For Compettive Politics testified that New York City-style public finance is like giving "whiskey and car keys to teenage boys." He advocated instead that New York adopt Oregon's style of campaign finance regulation.

Oregon has no limits on campaign finance donations.

Keating told legislators that he felt people making small donations should not have to report them, invoking Russian President Vladimir Puting having access to all the names of people who contributed to his opponents. Hitting on a favorite talking point of Senate Republicans — that the public does not want to pay for candidates to run — Keating said that the public could theoretically finance Neo-Nazi candidates.

Republican Kathy Marchione asked Keating how many instances of corruption there have been in the city's campaign finance system. Keating indicated he didn't know but offered, "That could be looked up."

Keating also was unable to answer questions about New York's current campaign contributions laws. He encouraged everyone to "do more research on this."

Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group stood outside the hearing room for hours. Earlier in the day he issued a report showing that 103,805 campaign finance violations occured since 2011.

"These violations range in severity from corporations donating over their $5,000 limit to filers failing to disclose the dates of their contributions as required by law," Mahoney said. "Taken together, the massive number of minor violations is indicative of a system in which the purported enforcement entity is willing to tolerate a complete disregard for its regulations."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised Mahoney's report.

Seven groups submitted a complaint to the Committee on Open Government on the public being excluded from the hearing. Here is the letter:

Brennan Center for Justice

Center for Working Families

Citizen Action of NY

Common Cause NY

Communications Workers of America District One

League of Women Voters of New York State

New York Public Interest Research Group

Mr. Freeman:

The Open Meetings Law and the rules of the Senate clearly declare that every committee meeting should be open to the public:

Senate Rules §3(3). All meetings of committees shall be open to authorized representatives of the news media and the general public as observers.

This is in keeping with the state’s Open Meetings Law, which states:

Article 7, §103. Open meetings and executive sessions. (a) Every meeting of a public body shall be open to the general public, except that an executive session of such body may be called and business transacted thereat in accordance with section ninety-five of this article.

This morning, the Senate Elections Committee commenced a public hearing on public financing of elections. Members of the Senate Elections Committee and/or staff reportedly directed sergeants-at-arms to deny entry to interested members of the public. This was done despite the room being well below capacity at the start of the hearing. (Several photos taken by reporters at this time showed there was plenty of remaining space). Nonetheless, sergeants-at-arms barred public entry claiming the room was filled to capacity. Several sergeants-at-arms were asked if members of the public could enter if some of those already in the room were to leave. They said “no.” When told this was in violation of the state’s Open Meetings Law, one sergeant-at-arms claimed to simply be following orders from the Committee. This suggests an intentional violation by the Elections Committee of the Senate Rules and the Open Meetings Law.

With the recent spate of arrests and polls showing keen public interest in reform issues, members of the public ought to at least be able to observe and listen to the proceedings, in accordance with the law. The failure to open up a “public” hearing to the public today is a new low for democracy and open government in New York.

We urge the Committee on Open Government to investigate this breach of the Open Meetings Law and the Senate’s rules in furtherance thereof and formally censure the Senate Elections Committee for its conduct shutting out the public today.


cc: Senate Co-Majority Leaders Skelos and Klein

Senate Democrat Conference Leader Stewart-Cousins

Senator Liz Krueger, Elections Committee Ranking Member

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

Albany District Attorney David Soares

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

]]> (David Howard King) City Tue, 07 May 2013 17:57:16 +0000
NYPIRG's Mahoney: Senate Hearing on NYC Campaign Financing A 'Kangaroo Court' *Updated* The Senate elections committee will hold hearings on corruption in the New York City public campaign finance system at 11 a.m. tomorrow. Oral testimony is by invite-only, and it just so happens that a good number of campaign finance experts from New York are not welcome to speak.

Bill Mahoney, New York Public Interest Research Group's number-cruncher extraordinare, just happens to be one of those campaign finance experts.

"Oral testimony is by invitation only," Mahoney said. "I suppose they are not interested in hearing from actual New Yorkers who have been effected by the system. They just want to hear people criticize a system that works better than ours."

Members of some of the state's largest government watchdog groups wrote the committe chairs — Sens. Thomas O'Mara and Diane Savino — to ask to be allowed to testify but they were not allowed to give oral testimony. The groups include Common Cause/NY, The Brennan Center, Citizen Action New York and Center For Working Families.

When asked about why good government groups were not allowed to give oral testimony, Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif replied:"I don't believe that is accurate. Dick Dadey, from Citizens Union, is on our confirmed speaker list."

When the Gazette clarified that the quesiton was about specific watchdog groups, Reif replied:

"The witness list reflects a wide range of views on taxpayer-funded political campaigns. Anyone who is not testifying is welcome to submit written testimony for the committee to review and consider."

Jessica Wisnewski of Citizen Action New York has her own thoughts on why Republicans wouldn't want to have a group of diverse experts speaking on the issue. "Report after report shows massive corporate donations benefit the Senate Republcians. Big money goes where power is," she said. "Senate Republicans are protecting the status quo rather than bringing real people's voices into the process."

Speaking of reports, Mahoney will issue one tomorrow showing that there have been 103,805 campaign finance violations since 2011. Mahoney and a number of people who have not been allowed to testify before the elections committee are in favor of the state adopting a public campaign financing system like New York City's.

Senate Republicans have spent a great deal of time recently attacking the city's financing system, calling it corrupt and pointing to scandals like one involving two former members of Comptroller John Liu's campaign staff.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb recently told the Gazette that he is "excited" to hear about more corruption in the New York City system.

Senate Republicans have mailed constituents in the recent past attacking Democrats for wanting the public to fund their campaigns but they have been loathe to talk about campaign finance reform in public. Until, that is, the recent string of legislative scandals that has brought campaign finance reform to the forefront of public discussion.

"It certainly seems like the most urgent time in recent memory," said Mahoney of campaign finance reform. "The longer politicians like Thomas O'Mara hold off on real hearings and real discussion of reform, the more indictments and scandals we are going to see."

]]> (David Howard King) State Mon, 06 May 2013 21:09:13 +0000