Elected officials who leave office under a cloud would face restrictions on the use of their campaign funds once out of the job under a measure proposed Tuesday by New York state lawmakers and the good-government organization Common Cause.
The bill would apply to former elected officials who are impeached and removed from office, convicted of crime while in office or resign following the release of findings pointing to criminal conduct.
The measure would block the use of campaign funds by the former elected officials for political purposes and require them to close the account within two years.
The proposal is meant to address former elected officials who still have access to the war chest they had amassed while in office. At a news conference on Tuesday in Albany, the lawmakers backing the bill — state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi and Assemblyman Phil Steck — pointed to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the most recent example.
Cuomo has tapped into the millions of dollars he raised while in office to fund TV ads that sought to refute the sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct allegations leveled against him. But the lawmakers insisted the bill was not meant to directly target Cuomo specifically.
Cuomo is not the only former elected official such a law could address. Multiple officeholders have resigned or were forced out under a cloud of scandal in recent years and were able to retain control of their campaign accounts.
"New Yorkers donate to candidates with the expectation that they will act with integrity and uphold the public trust should they assume office," Biaggi said. "When elected officials violate that trust, they should not be able to influence our politics with funds previously raised. I am proud to sponsor this bill with Assembly Member Steck to prohibit individuals who corrupt their offices from spending funds raised while in office. This is a common-sense step to uphold integrity and ethics in our state."
But Cuomo very much remained an active example.
"As of January 2022, he's still got $16 million on hand to do, frankly, whatever he wants to do," Biaggi said. "We've actually seen some of things play out with his ads and his attempt to resuscitate his reputation, which frankly has failed."
Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for the former governor, in a statement called the proposal unconstitutional, and referenced reporting around Biaggi's congressional campaign.
“Just like the last time Common Cause used a faulty interpretation of the law in order to go after Gov. Cuomo, this effort is clearly unconstitutional and a pathetic abuse of taxpayer money, but not surprising from the gang that can’t legislate straight," he said. "Five DAs looked at the politically motivated allegations in the AG report and didn’t bring a single case and if they want this to be the standard prospectively - between the anonymous Instagram account documenting bad behavior by dozens of legislators and Senator Biaggi’s reported history of bullying and fostering a toxic and hostile work environment - there will be scores of campaign accounts closing up.”