For those who want to see Albany transformed, 2019 was a rough year. From the campaign finance bungle to ethics scandals to a sudden influx of cash for the state’s most powerful political party, it could all be difficult to keep track of. So if Albany had a New Years’ resolution, we hoped that it was to be less corrupt. Unfortunately, so far, Albany in 2020 looks just like Albany in 2019…
- Remember last year when Senate Democrats received a surge in donations from the wealthy after taking control of the chamber? (Senate Republicans had received the bulk of donations in prior years.) The money hasn’t stopped flowing, and it’s coming from sources that are beginning to concern advocates: The Buffalo News reports that Senate Democrats raised $2.5 million from July to December, receiving contributions from “the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies, chemical companies, the nation’s biggest tobacco firm, charter school interests and Wall Street players.” Senate Republicans only raised 90% less (many donations from the same interests). A Democratic Senate spokesman commented, “I think this is a concrete example of how of touch the GOP are with the New York.” We at The Take think it is a concrete example of how of touch New York politicians are with people who can’t afford to donate millions of dollars.
- Remember last year when it was alleged that a secret vote from New York’s ethics enforcement agency (JCOPE) on a top former Cuomo official was illegally leaked? When Speaker Carl Heastie’s Counsel called Commissioner Julie Garcia asking why she had voted a certain way during a confidential meeting, leading her to report the leak? A Times Union investigation found that Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie called JCOPE Commissioner James Yates the same day as his Counsel’s call to Garcia. In response to questions about the “coincidence,” Heastie only said that he and Yates are friends and speak frequently, never about JCOPE votes, of course. Another revelation was that the Inspector General whose office investigated the case (and is a Cuomo ally) had dinner with a JCOPE Commissioner the night before the vote. In response to questions, all an IG spokesperson said was that the two had known each other for ten years and discussed nothing sensitive. It’s all either very unlucky timing or about as brazen as Albany interference gets.
- Remember last year when the executive director of the Committee on Open Government, the state’s transparency advisory group, was fired for sexual misconduct? There were hopes that the new executive director would be a breath of fresh air, but the early signs aren’t good: One would expect that the hiring process for a transparency agency would be transparent, but new director Shoshanah Bewlay was hired in secret, with one committee member finding out about her appointment by reading it in the newspaper. Even worse, Bewlay was known for denying numerous FOIL requests during her time as General Counsel for the Office of Information Technology Services – in fact, she denied 10 out of 10 FOIL requests made by the Albany Times Union. Our state capital was always a murky place, and it might only get murkier.
- We may or may not be holding a voter registration event on Saturday, February 8th in Brooklyn. Keep your eyes peeled for details.
- The next informal RepUs gathering will be on Thursday, February 20th. We’ll send a location closer to the date. Mark your calendars!
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