Common Cause Tag All blog entries tagged as Common Cause http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/the-eye-opener/latest Sat, 22 Mar 2014 04:56:31 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb Groups Offer Suggestions For Moreland Commission http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/the-eye-opener/entry/state/2013/07/22/groups-offer-suggestions-for-moreland-commission- http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/the-eye-opener/entry/state/2013/07/22/groups-offer-suggestions-for-moreland-commission- Common Cause New York and The Fair Elections For New York campaign both want Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Moreland Commission to follow the money when it comes to political donations from pro-hydrofracking groups.

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Common Cause issued a report that found pro-hydrofracking groups have contributed over $14 million to candidates and commitees from 2007 to 2013. The group's analysis claims to show that the candidates who recieved the most money have been the most vocal on the subject of allowing hydraulic fracturing in the state.

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"Powerful businesses and industries which stand to benefit from fracking use campaign contributions to gain influence with their local lawmakers, candidates, and party organizations," said Susan Lerner, director of Common Cause/NY, in a statement. "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."

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Citizen's Union is a member of The Fair Election For New York campaign and Gotham Gazette is published by Citizen Union's sister organization Citizens Union Foundation.

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Common Cause wants the Moreland Commission to look at the following issues:

1. Examine the timing of the contributions made to the top legislative recipients in relation to the introduction or discussion of fracking related bills.

2. Examine the involvement of lobbyists and bundlers relating to the contributions to the top legislative recipients.

3.Examine the circumstances of, and any conversations which took place in relation to, the donations made to the Senate and Assembly campaign committees.

The Moreland Commission was created by Cuomo after a year of major political scandal and the indictments of a number of legislators on corruption charges. But the commission is tasked with looking at the campaign finance system and the influence of money on politics.

Cuomo has faced pressure since he took office to decide whether or not to allow hydraulic fracturing in Western New York. Supporters say allowing the technique would be a major boon to the upstate economy. Detractors say the chemicals used in the fracking process can taint local water supplies and destroy the environment.

A representative from the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York did not immedietly respond to a request for comment.

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dking@gothamgazette.com (David Howard King) State Mon, 22 Jul 2013 21:04:42 +0000
Common Cause Wants Cuomo to Say 'No' To Lever Voting Machines http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/the-eye-opener/entry/state/2013/06/13/common-cause-wants-cuomo-to-say-no-to-lever-machines- http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/the-eye-opener/entry/state/2013/06/13/common-cause-wants-cuomo-to-say-no-to-lever-machines-

Common Cause says Gov. Andrew Cuomo needs to get his veto pen ready to stop the city from bringing back its old-school lever voting machines for this year's elections.

Both houses of the state Legislature are working on bills to allow the city's Board of Elections to delay a runoff in the mayoral primary and allow the city to use the lever machines.

The Senate version, sponsored by Republican Sen. Marty Golden of Brooklyn, would allow New York City to use lever machines in all non-federal elections. It would delay the runoff to three weeks after the election.

The Assembly version, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Michael Cusick of Staten Island, would only allow use of the antiquated machines for the runoff. The delay of the runoff would be the same as Golden's bill.

Common Cause refers to Cusick's legislation as "the less of two evils." Most good government groups oppose the use of lever machines at all and say the BOE should get its act together.

"It would be both a waste of tax payer money and an epic failure of government if after all our efforts to bring New York City's elections into the 21st century we reverted back to the 19th century for fear of progress," Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner said in a statement.

"The new technology is perfectly up to the task of administering the runoff as experts have acknowledged," Lerner continued. "It is the Board's continued unwillingness to get up to speed with modern technology which is truly at issue. Common Cause/NY urges the two houses of the Legislature to drop the lever machines out of these two bills and agree to move the run-off date back."

Common Cause's release says that lever machines are "inadequate" for runoff elections because:

They have 28,000 moving parts and break down constantly, with replacement parts limited, making them unreliable

They cannot be audited which is a violation of the spirit of Help America Vote Act (HAVA)

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dking@gothamgazette.com (David Howard King) State Thu, 13 Jun 2013 19:04:08 +0000
NYPIRG's Mahoney: Senate Hearing on NYC Campaign Financing A 'Kangaroo Court' *Updated* http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/the-eye-opener/entry/state/2013/05/06/nypirgs-mahoney-senate-hearing-on-nyc-campaign-financing-a-kangaroo-court http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/the-eye-opener/entry/state/2013/05/06/nypirgs-mahoney-senate-hearing-on-nyc-campaign-financing-a-kangaroo-court 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."

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dking@gothamgazette.com (David Howard King) State Mon, 06 May 2013 21:09:13 +0000
Groups Call for Investigation Into 'Culture of Sexual Harassment' in Albany http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/the-eye-opener/entry/state/2012/10/11/groups-call-for-investigation-into-culture-of-sexual-harassment-in-albany http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/the-eye-opener/entry/state/2012/10/11/groups-call-for-investigation-into-culture-of-sexual-harassment-in-albany

The National Organization for Women and Common Cause New York rallied today to call for a broader investigation into the "culture of sexual harassment in Albany."

The groups outlined a list of expectations for the Joint Commission on Public Ethic's investigation into the Assembly's handling of the Assemblyman Vito Lopez sexual harassment scandal.

"JCOPE has an opportunity to prove itself by conducting a real investigation which reveals how pervasive the problem is, whether other instances of sexual harassment were properly addressed as well as bringing forth the full facts of who knew what and when they knew it. A hurried report which fails to address the full scope of the Assembly, and Mr. Lopez's, wrong doing is unacceptable," said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, in a statement.

Its unclear at the moment how far JCOPE's investigation will go into the sexual harassment scandal, but a spokesman for the commission told the Wall Street Journal that the probe would be thorough.

”As with any investigation undertaken by the Joint Commission, the evidence is followed wherever it may lead," spokesman John Milgrim said.

Good government groups want an investigation into how Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver handled the settlement with Lopez's accusers, but confidentiality rules prevent JCOPE from detailing whom they are investigating.

Silver said yesterday that he had not been interviewed for the investigation. The speaker faced a lawsuit for tolerating a culture of sexual harassment in the Assembly in 2004 after one of his aides was accused of rape.

Here are the "expectations" NOW and Common Cause/NY have for JCOPE's investigation:

The investigation should be broad in scope in order to determine the duration and extent of Mr. Lopez's actions and the Assembly's responses to any extended course of misconduct. Sexual harassment is rarely an isolated incident, and this holds true in the case of Mr. Lopez where two sets of victims have already come forward with credible claims. News reports have suggested that Mr. Lopez has long operated with impunity and the public deserves accurate information addressing concerns that there may have been additional instances of misconduct, and if so, how they were addressed by the Assembly.

The investigation should be specific, covering in detail any and all acts perpetrated. The language of sexual harassment is too often vague and fails to paint an accurate picture of the abuse. Assembly Speaker Silver's letter of censure was quite detailed; this should be the model for JCOPE.

JCOPE should issue a report that clearly identifies who knew what, when they knew it and what they did about it. Due to the secretive manner in which the Assembly conducted itself, the public requires a full airing of the facts.

Assembly Speaker Silver, and Assembly Staff (past and present), must be held responsible for their role as appropriate under the Assembly's established policies on sexual harassment and ethics and the law. There must be recourse, which demonstrates that there are not two sets of rules: one of the powerful and well connected, and one for everyone else. Sexual harassment is a systemic problem, which must be pro-actively addressed by all employers and by the justice system. Cultural apathy is what creates the environment that allows sexual harassment to exist. It is unacceptable for political interests to be prioritized over the economic needs and safety of female employees.

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dking@gothamgazette.com (David Howard King) State Thu, 11 Oct 2012 21:58:19 +0000