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Senate Dems would strip officials of their pensions in corruption convictions

Sen. Neil Breslin said elected officials who betray the public trust and are convicted of felonies due to their unethical, corrupt actions do not deserve pension benefits.
April 16, 2013
The Senate Democratic Conference unveiled its legislative ethics package Monday afternoon, designed to reform New York State government and fight the constant corruption issues facing the state.

The series of bills would limit the use of campaign money and strip any convicted state or local official of their pensions if found guilty of violating the public trust.

Under current New York election law, candidates are allowed to spend funds for "any lawful purpose," which has a very loose meaning.

"For too long unethical politicians have used their campaign accounts as personal ATMs and defrauded the public as a result," said bill sponsor Sen. Terry Gipson, D-Rhinebeck. "Closing the current loopholes in legislation governing campaign funds is a common sense way to ensure these accounts are no longer utilized for non-campaign related payments. The public has a right to know how every dollar is spent on political campaigns and I urge all of my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation."

The bill would strip pension benefits from officials convicted of a felony involving the violation of public trust. Current law only regulates elected officials that have joined the pension system after 2011, after the last ethics reform package was passed. Under the new bill, all members in the pension system would be affected.

"Elected officials who betray the public trust and are convicted of felonies due to their unethical, corrupt actions do not deserve any pension benefits," said Sen. Neil Breslin, D-Albany said, To expect the hard working taxpayers of New York State to continue to support these corrupt individuals is ludicrous. That is why I have sponsored legislation to amend the State Constitution to close this loophole and ensure that those who betray the public trust no longer receive benefits long after they have been punished for their crimes."

Since the proposed bills would affect elected official's pensions, a constitutional amendment has also been introduced.

The ethics reform package also seeks to require that all campaign contributions be disclosed in reports to the State Board of Elections whether or not the contributor is a lobbyist and would require elected officials to post campaign donations on their websites.

The legislation also establishes a public financing system for state campaigns and would require greater transparency regarding campaign donations.

Bill sponsor Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, said, "For decades, our ethics and campaign finance laws have been defined by maddening loopholes and byzantine opaqueness. A strong small-donor matching funds system to empower everyday New Yorkers is essential to any reform package that's serious about ending the pay-to-play culture, but it's just as important that we make the lines between right and wrong crystal clear in our laws."

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