FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 20, 2010
Assembly Approves Sweeping Ethics And
Campaign Finance Reform Legislation
Measure includes stricter campaign finance rules and greater penalties for violations, increased
disclosure of outside income for legislators, enhancements to the lobby law, strengthened
legislative and executive oversight
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Ethics and Guidance Committee Chair William Magnarelli,
Governmental Operations Committee Chair RoAnn Destito and Election Law Committee Chair Joan
Millman today announced the passage of sweeping ethics and campaign finance reform legislation.
The legislation (A.9544) includes provisions that create an autonomous, fixed-term investigative
body to oversee legislative ethics, require greater disclosure from lobbyists, restore an
independent lobbying commission and provide greater information regarding legislators' outside
sources of income. Additionally, the measure creates a body within the New York State Board of
Elections to enforce greater adherence to campaign finance laws. A second measure (A.9559)
expressly prohibits public officers and employees from using state property, services or resources
for private business purposes.
The legislation revamps current ethics law by dividing the Legislative Ethics Commission into a
compliance and investigative arm, and replacing the Commission on Public Integrity by a six-member
board to oversee ethics compliance in the executive branch. The bill also reinstates an independent
state commission on lobbying and increases disclosure requirements for lobbyists who have business
relationships with public officials. Legislators will also be required to reveal in greater detail
their sources of outside income. Current law governing judiciary ethics will remain unchanged.
"We who serve in government must always strive to restore the people's faith in their government,"
said Silver (D-Manhattan). "The legislation we passed today will significantly strengthen the
ethics laws which apply to all public officials in this state and to those who lobby government by
expanding public disclosure of outside income, strengthening oversight of our ethics and campaign
finance laws and creating a truly independent oversight body for each branch of state government.
My colleagues and I in the Assembly remain committed to working in a bi-partisan manner to
increase transparency and accountability in the Empire State."
"Public officials must be held accountable to those they serve - the citizens of New York State,"
said Magnarelli (D-Syracuse). "Through comprehensive ethics and lobbying reform we will help
enforce adherence to the law and weed out those who may be taking advantage of the system."
"For years, too many New Yorkers have looked upon Albany as a place lacking in transparency and
accountability," said Destito (D/WF-Rome). "The bill we passed today will help to restore the trust
of those who have lost faith in state government. By replacing the weak Legislative Ethics
Commission with a stronger enforcement body with the independence to carry out thorough
investigation, New York's ethics laws will be upheld the way they were intended."
"I am proud to have played a role in crafting this legislation, which will help clean up Albany,"
said Millman (D-Brooklyn). "These sweeping campaign finance reforms will create stiffer penalties
for violators and bring much-needed transparency to the electoral process. These reforms are our
first step towards regaining the public's trust."
The new commissions overseeing the executive and legislative branches would take effect on July 31,
2010. The enhanced disclosure requirements would take effect January 1, 2011. The new commissions
would sunset on July 31, 2014.
Joint Legislative Commission on Ethics Standards and the Legislative Office of Ethics
Today's ethics reform legislation separates the Legislative Ethics Commission into two bodies.
The first, the Joint Legislative Commission on Ethics Standards (JLCES), will be the ethics
compliance arm. Legislative leaders will appoint two members each, including four legislators
and four non-members. This body will be responsible for conducting ethics training and education
for legislative staff, issuing advisory opinions and imposing penalties for violations of the
public officers' law.
The legislation also:
- Prevents individuals from serving as JLCES appointees for five years after working as
legislative officer, legislative employee or lobbyist in either New York State or other
jurisdictions, excluding the four legislators serving on the board;
- Requires the JLCES to review all financial disclosure statements to ensure that each is
- Mandates that financial disclosure statements of elected officials be posted on the JLCES
- Institutes a review process where either random reviews would be conducted by the JLCES, or
all members of a class-- legislators and legislative staff-- would be subject to review.
The second body, the Legislative Office of Ethics Investigation (LOEI) will also be governed by an
eight-member board. Each legislative leader would have two appointees, and legislators and
legislative staff would be prohibited from serving on the board. This body:
- Receives complaints about ethics violations from the public and referrals of cases for
investigation from the JLCES and the Senate and Assembly Standing Committees on Ethics, and
complaints about ethics violations from the public;
- Sends final reports to the JLCES or the relevant standing committee on ethics; and
- Publicizes reports in which cases are not dismissed or in dismissals when that decision is
inconsistent with the decision of the JLCES or the relevant standing committee on ethics.
The legislation also requires the appropriate legislative oversight body to conduct a hearing on
the effectiveness of these provisions within six months of the sunset date of the legislation.
Executive Ethics and Compliance Commission
Currently, the Commission on Public Integrity oversees ethics compliance by the executive branch.
The reforms replace this body and create a six-member Executive Ethics and Compliance Commission
(EECC), made up of two appointees each by the governor, the comptroller and the attorney general.
The members will appoint an executive director, who would serve a three-year term and could only
be removed by a majority vote of the board.
Additionally, this legislation:
Commission on Lobbying Ethics and Compliance
- Prevents individuals from serving as EECC appointees for five years after working as an
executive officer, legislator, legislative officer, executive or legislative branch employee
or lobbyist in either New York State or other jurisdictions;
- Requires the EECC to review all financial disclosure statements to ensure that each is
- Mandates that financial disclosure statements of elected officials be posted on the EECC
- Institutes a review process whereby either random reviews would be conducted by the EECC,
or all members of a class-- statewide elected officials, commissioners and deputy commissioners,
and other state officers and employees-- would be subject to review.
This legislation restores an independent state commission on lobbying that would consist of six
commissioners: two appointed by the governor and one by each of the legislative leaders. Each
appointee would serve for a fixed four-year term.
- Requires that the chair and vice-chair be elected by the majority of members of the
- Requires that an executive director be appointed by a majority vote of the members for a
three-year term; and
- Further defines a "widely attended event" as a gathering related to the attendee's duties or
responsibilities in which at least 25 people are invited or expected to attend, not including
individuals from the government entity in which the public officer serves; and
- Adds new language to define "nominal food and beverages" as that valued under $10.
This bill increases financial disclosure requirements by splitting an existing category into two new
categories on financial disclosure forms. The first covers amounts between $250,000 and $1 million;
the other covers amounts of $1 million or more.
Additionally, the legislation:
- Removes the provisions of current law that make categories of value confidential;
- Requires additional disclosure with respect to consulting services, business before the
state and licensed professions; and
- Clarifies language to indicate that deferred compensation plans must be disclosed.
Under this legislation, the Committee on Open Government will prepare an annual report summarizing
the actions of the JLCES, LOEI, EECC, the State Commission on Lobbying and the Senate and Assembly
Standing Committees on Ethics.
To promote increased enforcement of campaign finance reform laws, the legislation creates an
enforcement unit within the New York State Board of Elections (BOE) and mandates that at least 35
percent of the board's annual budget be dedicated to the unit. Additionally, it expands the
jurisdiction of the enforcement unit and promotes the independence of the enforcement counsel by
making the office a four-year term. The legislation also promotes compliance with campaign
finance laws by increasing current penalties and creating new penalties for violations, and
requires greater disclosure and transparency of campaign finance information.
Public Officers Law
- Requires three of the four BOE commissioners to vote to stop an investigation by the
enforcement counsel, rather than requiring, as current law does, three votes to begin an
- Mandates that all votes to stop an investigation or to act on the recommendation of the
enforcement counsel after an investigation occur in public;
- Adds an additional campaign finance filing for candidates and political committees during
the legislative session and increases the penalty for failure to file from $500 to $1,000;
- Creates a substantial penalty of up to $10,000 for the failure to file required statements
three or more times in an election cycle;
- Creates a new penalty for accepting an excess contribution. In addition to returning the
excess, a candidate or committee could be fined an amount equal to two times the excess plus
a civil penalty up to $10,000;
- Defines the term "independent expenditures" and requires that political communications
identify who paid for communications financed by such "independent expenditures" and exposes
violators to fines of up to $1,000 or the cost of the independent expenditure, whichever is
- Mandates that independent expenditures on communications opposing or supporting a candidate
or ballot initiative in excess of $1,000 be subject to the same filing requirements currently in
place for candidates and political committees;
- Prohibits a person, campaign committee or political party from falsely identifying the
source of a political communication; and
- Requires itemization of candidate and political committee credit card payments and other
This legislation prohibits the use by public officers and employees from using or obtaining state
property, services or resources for private business or other non-governmental, compensated
purposes, or scheming to use such resources that would deprive the government of $1,000 or more.