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Report: State enforcement lax on campaign finance

The New York Public Interest Research Group recently released a report detailing what it says is a lack of enforcement action on the part of the New York State Board of Elections with regard to state campaign finance regulations.

On an annual basis, violations of campaign finance law include hundreds of instances of donors giving more money than is allowed by state law, dozens of instances of candidates failing to disclose large contributions received in the period just prior to Election Day, and thousands of instances of filings that muddle the identity of donors or the purpose of expenditures through the inclusion of incomplete or incorrect information, the report states.

The report notes that dozens of incumbents spend campaign funds for “what reasonable people would unanimously agree are non-campaign reasons.”

Despite that, the only enforcement actions taken by the state Board of Elections since 2007 for violations of campaign finance laws have been the levying of modest fines against campaign committees for filing late disclosure reports, according to NYPIRG.

In just one example, more than $31 million in campaign funds previously disclosed by 2,328 active campaign committees had not been detailed in any current filings as of Aug. 13, a month after filings for the July 2012 period were due.

Bill Mahoney, NYPIRG research coordinator and author of the report, said the biggest area in need of attention is the “administration and enforcement of the current system.”

“The state Board of Elections has repeatedly scaled these regulations back and they’ve also failed to enforce the laws that are on the books,” Mahoney said.

The difficulty, Mahoney said, is making the average voter aware of the lax campaign finance oversight.

“At the state level, at least in the world inside Albany, people notice it,” he said. “We’re trying to do our part to make sure people who are not nose-deep in politics are made more aware.”

Mahoney said the blame lies both with the state Legislature and with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who during his campaign promised increased government transparency and campaign finance reform.

“The legislators themselves will often hope to put it off until next year,” he said. “Governor Cuomo has said repeatedly that this is something he would do during his first term in office, and yet this is one of his two campaign promises that he has yet to fulfill.”


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