ALBANY, NY (05/10/2022) (readMedia)-- Today, Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY, joined with bill sponsors Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Assembly Member Phil Steck to call on state lawmakers to pass legislation that would no longer allow an elected official who resigned after findings of criminal conduct, was impeached or convicted of a crime while in office to use campaign funds for certain activities.
Over the past decade, numerous elected officials have left public office as outlined by the bill and continued to spend down on their campaign funds, including Carl Kruger and Andrew Cuomo.
"When an elected official raises money for their campaign, it's not for personal use. There is an enormous gap in our campaign finance law that can allow disgraced politicians to use their campaign funds as a personal slush fund. Donors give elected officials money to run for public office, not for them to spend recklessly on their own agenda. State lawmakers must pass Senator Biaggi and Assembly Member Phil Steck's legislation before session ends and fix our laws to protect donors and voters," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.
Currently, disgraced elected officials can spend their leftover campaign cash on anything under campaign finance law, even if they are no longer running for public office. Steck and Biaggi's bill would close a gap in New York state's laws, prohibiting the resigned official from spending money from an existing campaign for any political purpose and require them to close the account within two years.
"New Yorkers donate to candidates with the expectation that they will act with integrity and uphold the public trust should they assume office. When elected officials violate that trust, they should not be able to influence our politics with funds previously raised. I am proud to sponsor this bill with Assembly Member Steck to prohibit individuals who corrupt their offices from spending funds raised while in office. This is a common-sense step to uphold integrity and ethics in our state," said Senator Alessandra Biaggi.
"Campaign funds have long been used by former elected officials who have left public service to attend events, give to charitable organizations, and support other candidates and political committees. However, in recent years, high profile former elected officials with robust campaign accounts have utilized those accounts for everything other than a campaign. This misuse of these funds needs to end. This legislation removes access to these campaign accounts by former officials who have been convicted, convicted and resigned, or convicted and impeached, as well as those who resigned after the attorney general or a committee of the legislature has found the official violated the law. These campaign funds were raised to advance a campaign and are not personal property. Period," said Assembly Member Phil Steck.
New York's elections laws clearly state that a candidate can spend campaign funds to run for office – not personal use. When an official resigns and is convicted of a crime committed while in public office or has been impeached or the subject of an impeachment inquiry, they are no longer campaigning and the purpose for which the money has been collected no longer applies.