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When will New York finally get serious about corruption?

A New York corruption quiz for you: Since 2015, at least 41 New York politicians have been accused of corruption or abusing their positions. What was the state agency that usually took them down?

a. Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE)
b. Legislative Ethics Commission (LEC)
c. Board of Elections (BOE)

Answer: None of the above. JCOPE, the LEC and BOE, though supposed to act in part as watchdogs on the lookout for wrongdoing, have been frequently accused of partisanship or deliberate inaction over the past years, with almost all of the 41 cases above tackled by federal officials.

That’s why a new campaign launched last week in support of a bill that would dissolve JCOPE, the LEC, and the BOE’s campaign finance enforcement division and replace them with a new, more effective entity: The Government Integrity Commission.

The Government Integrity Commission would be empowered to police ethics violations through a combination of structural reforms, enhanced powers, and additional resources. Most importantly, the bill would dilute elected officials’ influence by allowing the judiciary to appoint 7 of 13 Commission members, with the remainder appointed by the governor (2) and legislative leaders (4) (currently, the governor and legislative leaders control all JCOPE appointments). The Commission would also be able to act by majority vote (currently, as few as two commissioners can block certain investigations). 

The bill, which seeks to make these changes through a constitutional amendment, is currently sitting in committee in both chambers of the legislature. Constitutional amendments must be passed in two consecutive legislative sessions in order to become effective, meaning that the legislature must pass the bill by end of the current session in June or it will not be enacted until 2024 at the earliest. It might be time to start making some phone calls to your local lawmaker.

In other news…

  • The current budget does not provide enough funds for the State’s public campaign financing program, argues DeNora Getachew, former member of the State’s Public Campaign Financing Commission, in the New York Daily News. The Public Campaign Financing Commission published a set of rules late last year that would reform the state campaign finance system through a matching program and reduced campaign donation limits for state elections, among other changes. The new laws would take effect in 2022 in order to allow the State to put in place appropriate infrastructure, including hardware, software, and staff. However, Getachew argues that the governor’s most recent budget doesn’t offer enough funding to implement these reforms – meaning that a system that’s already a joke might become … even more of a joke.
  • If a healthcare company gets taxpayer money, we should be allowed to see how they’re spending it, right? Right? Unfortunately, that’s not how it’s been working in New York state. A private firm responsible for determining who gets expensive long-term care is coming under increasing scrutiny from lawmakers in light of the State’s projected budget shortfall, reports The City. The $6 billion shortfall has been attributed to rising expenditures on Medicaid. About one-third of New York’s $26 billion in annual Medicaid expenditures is attributable to managed long-term care, which provides home care attendants to elderly and chronically ill patients. A private company, Maximus, screens candidates to verify that they meet medical requirements for the program. The firm performs this function under a roughly $1 billion contract with the State. However, the contract is protected from review by the New York State comptroller or legislators due to provisions in a previous State budget. Healthcare funds are life or death for many people – but there’s no telling when we’ll be able to see how our money is being spent.

How you can get involved: 

  • Our next campaign is under way and we want YOU to be a part of it! To learn how you can be involved, email us at repusnyc@gmail.com.

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Love,

The Take

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