JAMESTOWN – Assemblyman Andy Goodell (R-C-I Chautauqua) has introduced legislation to ban campaign contributions from contractors and others doing business with state government.
Goodell’s legislation would prohibit campaign contributions from companies seeking contracts with the state, public unions seeking pay and benefit increases, special interest groups and others who would benefit financially from requested legislation or other action by public officials. The legislation would also apply to political candidates.
Bribery and bid rigging are already illegal, as reflected by the recent convictions of top Cuomo officials. The corruption at the highest levels of Gov. Cuomo’s administration, however, was intended to reward companies that made generous campaign contributions to the governor’s campaign. Gov. Cuomo himself was not accused of any personal involvement in the bid rigging or bribery schemes.
Last week, a federal jury convicted Alain Kaloyeros, Gov. Cuomo’s top economic development official, of rigging the bid for a $226 million state construction contract so only major campaign donors to Gov. Cuomo could receive the bid awards.
Earlier in the year, Joseph Percoco, Cuomo’s former top aide and former campaign manager, was convicted of receiving bribes from companies that wanted to do work for New York state. Percoco also solicited major campaign contributions from those companies.
“There is an obvious conflict of interest when those seeking to do business with the state are urged to make thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to the governor or other elected officials before a bid is awarded,” said Goodell. “This fosters a terribly corrupting ‘pay-to-play’ culture where state contractors feel compelled to make generous campaign contributions in order to receive contracts from the state.”
Goodell said those seeking special legislation should be prohibited from making campaign contributions to legislators, who are then asked to vote in favor of that legislation. All legislation should be based on an objective evaluation of the long-term best interests of the taxpayers, not the best interest of those who make the largest campaign contributions, according to the local Assemblyman.
“This is a huge loophole in our ethics rules,” said Goodell. “It is a violation of our ethics rules for lobbyists to pay for a legislator’s lunch if it costs more than $15, but the same lobbyists can give the legislator checks for thousands of dollars in campaign contributions at the same luncheon.”
Goodell is hopeful that the recent convictions of top Cuomo officials will provide the needed attention to get this legislation passed if the Legislature returns later this year for a special session.
This legislation was originally introduced by Goodell in 2015, but was blocked by the Democratic members of the Governmental Operations Committee. The Republican members of the Committee unanimously supported the legislation.
“The need for this legislation is obvious. I hope the Assembly will take the necessary action to prohibit ‘pay-to-play’ and stop this corruption,” said Goodell.