The clock is ticking for members of the state Assembly and Senate to cough up the sources of their outside income that exceeds $20,000. Lawyers in the groups also were told to disclose their civil and/or criminal clients. The original deadline for the disclosure was Sept. 12, but the extension that was granted runs out this Friday (Sept. 20).
The push for transparency regarding money in politics can be credited to a special Moreland Commission panel, named for the 1907 Moreland Act, appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo this July. The panel sent both chambers letters requesting the information as part of Cuomo’s initiative to combat corruption after a scandalous year in state politics that saw the indictments of several elected officials. The panel includes Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Albany County District Attorney David Soares.
Two big-name lawyers who earn outside income upwards of $250,000 or more are Assembly Democratic Majority Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Skelos’ office at the Capitol has been the target of multiple protests by local activists, who demand that he address campaign finance reform.
Both the Assembly and the Senate have procured attorneys to represent their interests in front of the panel, and many have hinted that a lengthy legal battle will ensue. Many lawyers have protested the panel’s demands and say that they violate client-attorney privileges. It’s unclear where the funding for the investigations, likely to cost millions of dollars, will come from.
Cuomo established another commission in November 2012 to investigate the “response, preparation, and management of New York’s power utility companies,” specifically in cases where massive storms created emergency situations, as in the aftermaths of hurricanes Sandy, Irene, and Lee.