Newly Signed and Long Sought-After Ethics Bill Not Strong Enough for Some

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo in June announced plans to push for a bill aimed at curbing the impact of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which has ushered in the era of super PACs and unlimited political spending.

"Citizens United will be in the history books for devaluing an individual's right to participate in the political system, for secreting the political process into the shadows and bestowing the wealthy with additional political power they never had before," said Cuomo, D-New York, on June 8.

Cuomo on Wednesday signed a bill into law he says curbs that impact, requiring new disclosure for non-profit entities that engage in political activity, require the lobbyists and consultants of candidates be disclosed and limit coordination between traditional campaigns and PACs, but the new law is getting a thumbs down from ethics watchdogs.

"It's really classic Albany," said Barbara Bartoletti, League of Women Voters. "This is solving a problem that doesn't exist and yet it doesn't address the culture of corruption that does exist here in Albany."

Cuomo introduced the legislation in the final weeks of the session after additional ethics and campaign finance reform measures he proposed failed to gain any traction.

"It was done in the middle of the night, at the very end of session, we think because the governor was not able to get both him and the two leaders in the Assembly and Senate to go along with any real ethics reform," Bartoletti said.

Instead of addressing the impact of money in politics, good-government advocates like NYPIRG Legislative Director Blair Horner say it will have far-reaching consequences for non-profits.

"The way the vaguely and clumsily-written bill works out is, it will have a chilling effect on non-profits and charities and even have an impact on their ability to fundraise," Horner said.

The law would also impact some good-government groups, who have been a thorn in the side of the governor.

"Really, the biggest impact is going to be on charities who have very little to do with lobbying, maybe big institutions – colleges, hospitals – who even if they talk to another not-for-profit may have to disclose their donors," said Horner.

This is the 4th ethics law that's been approved in the last five years Cuomo has been governor, a tenure that's seen a parade of corruption arrests in the Legislature.

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