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World Bill banning Gov. Cuomo from taking appointee donations clears senate

New York lawmakers advanced legislation on Wednesday that would prevent governors from accepting campaign cash from people they appoint to state boards and commissions.

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Bill banning Gov. Cuomo from taking appointee donations clears senate play

Bill banning Gov. Cuomo from taking appointee donations clears senate

(NYT)

The bill, which sailed through the state Senate on a bipartisan 60-2 vote, was introduced in response to a report in The New York Times earlier this year revealing that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had raised about $890,000 from his appointees, despite signing an executive order on his first day as governor in 2011 that seemed to ban the practice.

The legislation would effectively put the executive order into law.

Cuomo’s office justified the fundraising by saying it had interpreted the order as only applying to appointees that the governor can fire, and those who are required to file financial-disclosure reports. It only named three minor boards that fit such criteria: the Albany Convention Center Authority; the Capital Program Review Board at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority; and the Occupational Safety and Health Hazard Abatement Board.

“I think we need a bright line so there’s no issue to discuss, so there is no question of interpretation, so that there’s not ambiguity, so that executive appointees are prohibited from donating,” said Sen. Michael H. Ranzenhofer, a Republican who represents the region between Buffalo and Rochester, and is the sponsor of the legislation.

The bill now goes to the Democrat-controlled state Assembly. A spokeswoman for Carl E. Heastie, the Assembly speaker, said he would review the legislation, as did Cuomo’s office.

The legislation would go even further than the executive order, which dates back to Gov. Eliot Spitzer. It would not just ban donations from appointees of the governor but also other members of their household, including spouses and children.

The Times reported in February that spouses, children and businesses of appointees had contributed $1.3 million to Cuomo, in addition to the roughly $890,000 in appointee donations. In some cases, appointees stopped donating after receiving state posts while family members continued to contribute.

Under Ranzenhofer’s bill, the contribution ban would also apply to the years before and after people’s appointments.

The bill’s formal justification said that government appointees donating to the executive that appointed them “fosters skepticism and distrust of the political process in Albany,” and leads citizens to believe that Albany is rife with a pay-to-play culture.

The legislation does not include appointments made by lawmakers. “This is the place to start,” Ranzenhofer said.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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