Donovan Targets Member Items

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Republican attorney general candiate Daniel Donovan today called for tougher oversight of the state’s member-items, the roughly $170 million pot that lawmakers typically get each year to dole out their hometown projects.

The legislative earmarks — often called pork-barrel spending — have been criticized for not being distributed equally among members and for lacking transparency. The troubles have often been linked to lawmakers securing state money for non-profits that they have a hand in.

If you want to know where the member-items were going, we have databases from the 2009-10 fiscal year here — for the Assembly and the Senate.

There are no new members items in this year’s budget. And Gov. David Paterson vetoed the 2009-10 member items. We have that database list here.

Donovan wants to bolster the “Project Sunlight” effort started under current Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, now the Democratic candidate for governor, that would require lawmakers to sign affidavits that they have no conflicts between the non-profit and the money they are getting for the group.

Cuomo’s office now requires the organizations that receive member items to submit documentation that they are aware of no existing conflict, Donovan said.

Lying on the the affidavit could mean perjury charges, Donovan, the Staten Island district attorney, said.

“In 2007, Attorney General Cuomo made the first strides in rooting out fraud and abuse in our member item allocation process through the implementation of Project Sunlight. My proposal takes Project Sunlight one step further,” Donovan said in a statement.

Donovan said that current law allows the AG’s office to require the affidavits.

His Democratic opponent, Manhattan Sen. Eric Schneiderman, responded: Not bad, but not good enough. His campaign said Schneiderman has a more comprehensive public integrity plan.

“It’s nice to see Republican Dan Donovan finally take an interest in reform issues for the first time now that he’s running for office, but Eric Schneideman has been a leading reformer for years, leading the charge to expel a corrupt senator for the first time in history, and writing the most sweeping ethics reform legislation in a generation,” said Schneiderman spokesman James Freedland.

“Not only does Eric support what Mr. Donovan, the product of the old-boy Republican political machine, is belatedly adding his name to today, Eric’s plan is far more comprehensive and will expand Project Sunlight to improve transparency, increase the power to investigate public officials who loot charities, and crack down on legislators with financial interests in these grants.”

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