Welcome to The Take, the RepresentUs NY newsletter covering corruption in New York
Welcome to The Take, the RepresentUs NYC newsletter covering corruption in New York City and State.
New York has had more corruption convictions than any other state, yet this fact is often overlooked due to an increasing emphasis on national politics in the press. That’s why we made The Take – to help activists like you keep track of corruption-related issues in your local government, and give you the tools you need to fight.
Every week, we’ll send you an email summarizing recent developments in campaign finance, ethics, lobbying, and voting in city and state government. But this newsletter is not just about problems – it’s also about solutions. So each issue will also include the latest initiatives, campaigns, and legislation that activists are using to end corruption in the Empire State.
Here’s what’s happening in the city:
- It’s looking increasingly like city candidates will soon be able to receive 89% of their campaign funds from the city after Int. 0732-B passed out of committee on Tuesday this week. This is an amended version of a bill RepresentUs NY members advocated for in 2017 and 2018. However, City Comptroller Scott Stringer called the bill a “brazen power grab” by Speaker Corey Johnson, as in order to opt into the new system, candidates must return past donations that went above the old system’s contribution limits. Donation limits to mayoral candidates dropped to $2,000 from $5,100 when voters passed Question 1 last November. Mr. Stringer has some $5,100 donations in his war chest, and is said, like Mr. Johnson, to be mulling a run for mayor. $250 is the maximum amount of any donation that can be matched by the city, and the Speaker has said he will refuse all donations above $250 if he runs.
- Former City Council candidate Albert Alvarez pleaded guilty in a straw-donation scheme from his 2013 campaign. Two Bronx non-profit employees took money from the Tremont Crotona Day Center and distributed it to the daycare employees in exchange for contributions to Alvarez’s campaign. Through the arrangement, Alvarez was able to secure $4,500 in public matching donations. As part of his plea deal, he will pay back $10,450.
- Heath Brown in Gotham Gazette writes that “democracy voucher” proposals should be expanded to minors, branching off of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s proposal to allow every American to donate $600 to their preferred candidate. While citizens under the age of 18 cannot vote, they (surprisingly) have no legal restrictions when it comes to making campaign contributions. Doing so, says Brown, would give America’s youth a much stronger chance to help elect politicians who have their best interests in mind.
And in the state:
- Last Wednesday, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran signed the new Vendor Code of Ethics, which bans gifts or job offers to county procurement officials. Nassau currently awards about $1 billion a year in contracts for tasks that cannot be accomplished by county staff alone. The reforms follow the conviction of former Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano on charges of federal program bribery.
- The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), ironically, might have an ethics problem. Back in January, the Commission held a closed-door vote on whether or not to investigate one of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s former top aides, Joe Percoco. The results of the vote have not been revealed, and an investigation was reportedly only considered after State Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox filed a highly-public lawsuit against Percoco to the Supreme Court in Albany. “JCOPE’s actions, despite hard evidence, including sworn testimony from the federal Percoco trial, to continuously protect Governor Cuomo from prosecution have been nothing short of corrupt,” said Cox.
HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED
- Come show your support for RCV in NYC! The Charter Revision Commission will be meeting on Wednesday (today!), June 12th at 6pm in City Hall to vote on what proposals to place on the ballot. Now’s the time to make sure our voices are heard. RepresentUs members from all over the city will be attending. We look forward to seeing you there!
- Want to make sure state legislators actually represent their districts? Stay involved with the Fair Elections campaign! A commission to establish public financing was included in the budget, but they won’t act unless we keep up the pressure. Use the Fair Elex website to contact legislative leaders and urge them to appoint strong advocates to the commission.