A good-government group is out with an interesting take on the state’s campaign-finance laws, pointing to thousands of accounts that blew a July filing deadline as an example of lax enforcement.
A total of 2,328 political committees did not file their July reports by August 13 or didn’t report any transactions, according to the New York Public Interest Research Group. Based on their previous reports, those accounts represent about $31 million.
While the state Board of Elections has levied fines against late filers, they have usually been in the $100 to $1,000 range, according to public records obtained by NYPIRG. Those fines “clearly are not enough to deter candidates who appear to have no interest in filing on time or, in some cases, ever.”
Among the most consistent violators is former Sen. Pedro Espada, a Bronx Democrat who was in the middle of a host of legal and ethical issues during (and after) his tenure. Espada’s two campaign accounts and two political action committees haven’t filed a report with the Board of Elections in two years.
Also on the list: A number of PACs aimed at ousting Greg Ball, a state senator from Putnam County who previously served in the state Assembly; and Adam Bradley, the former White Plains mayor and state assemblyman who has had legal issues of his own.
We’ve reached out to the Board of Elections
and will update with its response. UPDATE: BOE spokesman John Conklin has issued a response to the NYPIRG report. It can be read in full after the jump.
Here’s a look at NYPIRG’s report, including a list of notable offenders:
From BOE spokesman John Conklin:
“While we share NYPIRG’s view that the enforcement of campaign finance disclosure is vitally important to the electoral process, we dispute the conclusions in the campaign finance report issued by NYPIRG today. They allege wrongdoing by candidates and inaction by the State Board of Elections that is just not true.
Since 2006, we have initiated 5,042 lawsuits against candidates and committees seeking more than $1.5 million in court-assessed fines for failure to file campaign finance disclosure reports. While we are criticized for seeking fines of only $1,000, that is the maximum allowable under current law. In addition, we average more than 4,000 enforcement actions each year which stop short of litigation because the committees or candidates make their filing.
With regard to persistent delinquents, between 2007 and 2010 the Board made more than 900 referrals to the Albany County District Attorney for failure to file. During that same period 239 referrals of corporations were made to other District Attorneys around the state for corporate over-contributions. (Note: Upon seeing this statement, NYPIRG’s Mahoney questioned the statistics in this paragraph, including why they weren’t included in a public-records request for enforcement actions by the Board of Elections.)
Since the law was changed in 2005, and local filers were required to file with the State Board, our total number of filers has increased more than seven-fold, going from 1,716 in 2004 to more than 12,300 last year. During that time the resources allocated to the Board by the state have not kept pace with that increased workload.
The suggestion that we have not asked for additional resources is simply untrue. The Board consistently seeks significant increases in staffing and funding from the Division of the Budget each year but as everyone knows the budget process is difficult in a bad economy. This is also a persistent theme expressed during our Board meetings which are broadcast to the general public and anyone who has attended a budget hearing will hear that same request for the State Board from other advocacy groups.
Our goal as an administrative agency is compliance. Even NYPIRG’s own figures obtained from the State Board demonstrate that a vast majority of filers are compliant with state law.”