Elections Board to Miss State Disclosure Deadline

According to a release put out today by the New York Public Interest Research Group, the Board of Elections has blown through deadline imposed under the state’s new ethics laws to put out a proposed regulation on the disclosure of independent campaign expenditures.

The deadline was January 1.

“This is the latest example of the need to restructure the oversight of the state’s campaign finance laws and ensure that sufficient resources are available for implementation and enforcement of the laws,” writes Bill Mahoney, the legislative coordinator for NYPIRG.

The new ethics law, called The Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011 amendment was signed into law on August 15, and would have required the board to disclose those who give money to independent campaign arms–rather than the campaigns themselves–prior to the election.

Writes Mr. Mahoney:

“The Board of Elections has had six months to meet its deadline.  Yet when these regulations were discussed during the Board’s December 15th meeting Commissioners and staff said that despite ‘numerous rewrites’ it was not ready to be put out for public comment.  Co-chair Douglas Kellner questioned why the Board would not issue the proposal as drafted to meet the statutory deadline, but was told that “it’s not ready.”  Instead of trying to finalize whatever additional “minor tweaks” they felt were needed, in less than two and half minutes the Commissioners moved on to other business.

NYPIRG points out that the each year hundreds of donors give contributions larger than the state’s generous legal limits and often do not face consequences, while candidates submit partial and incomplete information about their donors and are never forced to follow disclosure laws.

Legislators and the governor included the January 1st deadline for a reason.  Independent expenditures have been increasing in recent election cycles in New York, and will likely continue their upward march this year. Unions and political strategists have recently promised to run more large-scale independent campaigns in future elections.  Newly emboldened interest groups who will be running massive national campaigns in the shadow of Citizens United could very well get involved in state-level races.

 

This most recent failure of the Board highlights the need for any campaign finance proposals introduced in 2012 to either take campaign finance enforcement powers away from the bipartisan board or drastically restructure an independent enforcement unit.  Changes such as public financing of elections or lower contribution limits are needed to reduce the oversized role played by wealthy interests in state elections, but will not be effective if candidates can casually ignore their requirements without fear of reprisal.  Moreover, the state needs to demonstrate its commitment to campaign finance transparency and enforcement of election law by ensuring that there is adequate funding and staffing to implement state law.