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Moreland Commission recommends public campaign financing, other reforms

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Governor Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission issued a scathing report Monday evening that criticizes what the commission says is Albany’s culture of corruption and recommends numerous reforms.The Moreland Act commissioners describe their report as a “blueprint” to fix what they say is the pervasive “dysfunction” in Albany.

They recommend enacting New York City-style public campaign financing for statewide elections and closing loopholes that allow limited liability corporations and party housekeeping accounts to blatantly shirk existing limits for campaign contributions. They believe LLCs should be held to the same $5,000 limit currently in place for corporations.

The commissioners also say that the State Board of Elections should be stripped of their enforcement powers and an independent enforcement agency be set up instead. They says the Board of Election’s current bipartisan structure, with two commissioners from each major party, has led to a “tacit, bipartisan agreement to do nothing.”

The commission also wants to create a new crime of “failure to report bribery” and make it easier to prosecute and prove bribery. Similar ideas were already recommended by Governor Cuomo, but the Legislature failed to act on them in the 2013 legislative session.

The commission advises created another new criminal offense of “undisclosed self dealing” by elected officials who don’t tell the public they may have a financial interest in a particular bill or policy.  

The commission says it is continuing several ongoing investigations that give hints of potential criminal corruption. They include looking at how luxury real estate developers got a tax break secretly buried in a law passed last January, and they refer to e-mails from a trade association that sponsored a fundraiser for Assembly Democrats that specifically said contributions of $10,000 per attendee were necessary to get favorable laws enacted and stop “terrible” ones from happening.

Governor Cuomo, in a statement, was non-committal about the commission's specific ideas, but says he wants to work toward “systematic reform.”

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.