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ALBANY - Republicans continued to fire back at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo over ethics, saying Thursday whatever applies to legislators should apply to the executive branch of government as well -- especially when it comes to staff expenditures and a domestic partner’s financial interests.
Specifically, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) noted that domestic partners aren’t required to divulge personal finances -- a jab at Cuomo who lives with long-time girlfriend Sandra Lee. Skelos said that Cuomo, when he was state attorney general, once advocated an ethics code that required not just spouses but domestic partners disclose financial interests.
“I didn’t bring up his girlfriend,” Skelos said of Cuomo. “What I brought up was the fact that when he was attorney general, [Cuomo] had language that said [disclosure] should apply to domestic partners.
“This is about equality, in terms of disclosure, between the executive branch and the Legislature,” Skelos said after a brief budget meeting with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx).
Using a biannual Senate expense report as a prop, Skelos also contended the Legislature goes further than the governor’s office in reporting how staff spends taxpayers’ money.
“You can find out where any of our counsel, staff went. What they paid for lodging. Everything,” Skelos said, flipping pages of the book. “The governor’s staff, when they move their minions, of 40 or 50, for a press conference for their purposes, they don’t have to disclose.”
Another Republican, Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) said “many things the governor says are necessary,” for ethics disclosure, “don’t necessarily apply to him.”
Cuomo’s office didn’t directly respond to Republicans’ claim that Sandra Lee, a Food Network program host, should be covered by state disclosure laws. Instead, an aide referred to a comment on Twitter from Cuomo communications director Melissa DeRosa, who called the GOP argument a “distraction in action.”
Cuomo and Heastie sought to pressure Skelos a day earlier, saying they had reached a two-way deal on ethics. Part of it would require lawmakers (who are considered part-time and can hold outside jobs) to identify their private law practice clients to avoid conflicts.
Heastie said the domestic partner issue is something that can be “put on the table” for discussion.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday said 64 percent of New Yorkers believe spouses and domestic partners of elected leaders should be subject to disclosure laws.