Earlier this year, the Westchester County Democratic Committee launched the “Astorino Truth Squad,” a public effort to question and criticize Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rob Astorino’s record.
So who’s funding the effort? It’s still impossible to say, because the Westchester Democrats have yet to file a required financial disclosure with the state Board of Elections six days after it was due.
In a phone interview Monday, Westchester Democratic Chairman Reginald LaFayette said the committee is “getting it together.” He noted the committee often doesn’t file on the exact filing date — in this case, July 15.
“Listen, we’re not breaking any rules or any laws,” LaFayette told Gannett’s Albany Bureau. “It’s only for the interested parties, such as yourself, who want it quickly. Now if we go a month, et cetera, whatever. But we’re not breaking any rules or any laws.”
Except the July 15 filing deadline is set in the state’s rules and regulations.
Section 6200.02 of the state Board of Elections’ rules and regulations says financial disclosure statements “shall be filed” by political candidates and committees “no later than the 15th day of January and July of each subsequent year until such time as the candidate or committee terminates activities.”
LaFayette, who is also a Westchester County election commissioner, took issue with calling July 15 a “deadline” and also with Gannett’s Albany Bureau suggesting the committee had six months to get its filing in order. The yet-to-be-filed disclosure will cover donations to and expenditures by the committee between mid-January and mid-July.
“That’s the filing date,” LaFayette said. “Isn’t there a grace period like any bills that are being paid? You don’t call and tell me we had six months to get it together. Do you know our circumstances? I find that a little insulting.”
He continued: “Now if you want to write a story that we’re filing late, then you write the story. But I find that a little insulting, because we’re not breaking any laws.”
LaFayette claimed his committee would be breaking the law if “we don’t file or if file a year later or six months later or two months later.”
State election law says the treasurer of a political committee could be subject to a fine of up to $1,000 for failing to file a required disclosure if the state Board of Elections chooses to pursue a civil action. While there is no grace period written into state law, the board previously waited five days after the filing deadline to send any late notices, which threaten a penalty if the disclosure isn’t promptly filed.
But in March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers approved the creation of a new enforcement unit within the Board of Elections. That unit will now send a letter to “any filer who has not submitted a filing to date explaining that they are currently not in compliance with the law,” Board of Elections spokesman Thomas Connolly said in an email.
The Westchester Democrats received a late notice earlier this year, when they missed the January filing date. Several prominent Republicans in Westchester and Putnam counties still haven’t filed their July 15 disclosures, including Sen. Greg Ball and Assemblyman Steve Katz.
LaFayette acknowledged there is heightened interest in his committee’s account because of the Astorino Truth Squad, which has attacked Astorino, the Westchester County executive, while largely allowing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to stay out of the fray. (The Journal News’ Elizabeth Ganga had a look at the Truth Squad effort in Monday’s paper.)
“I know that,” LaFayette said. “You’re looking to see where we’re getting the money from. We’re not hiding.”
So, who is funding the Astorino Truth Squad?
“Well, you’ve got to look at the filing,” LaFayette said.