Let’s say you donate to a campaign. You really like said candidate and believe he or she will do a great job representing you and your interests in government. Eventually, your preferred politician gets elected and you’re confident that your donation was well-spent.
And then, a year later, he or she is involved in a corruption scandal and, soon enough, you see your donation dollars in the hands of the candidate’s lawyers. Wait, that’s not okay, right?
That’s the question being asked in Albany this week, as state lawmakers debate whether to include a ban on using campaign money for outrageous legal fees in the campaign finance reform bill coming out of Governor Cuomo’s office. In 1989, the State Board of Elections decided that it was totally fine for candidates to spend their electoral cash on defenses in court. But, in the wake of the recent scandal fest, that opinion is quickly being revisited.
The Daily News reports that 20 elected officials have paid nearly $6.78 million on legal fees–all of which came from campaign treasure chests. But, in some cases, the politicians were forced to defend themselves against meaningless lawsuits; the fees just being a product of the expensive legal system we have in place.
But is that an excuse still to use money that was donated to you?
Although the ban has received bipartisan support, Senate Democrats are the ones really pushing for this thing. Its main opponent lies in Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, which makes sense. Over the years, Silver has spent thousands to defend himself in court – most recently, he had to hire a lawyer in the Vito Lopez case, when the Speaker was probed for coming to a secret settlement with the harassment chargers. So, yes, he would be against this ban.
The Voice will keep you updated on the campaign finance reform bill as it makes it way through Albany’s legislative halls.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 19, 2013