Assemb. Todd Kaminsky, a Long Beach Democrat who is running for former Senate Majority Dean Skelos’ seat, on Wednesday unveiled legislation that he said would enable district attorneys to better target public corruption cases.
The bills would for the first time criminalize lying to a district attorney investigator; strengthen the state’s bribery statutes and create a new charge of “abuse of public trust” exclusively for public officials.
Recent high-level public corruption cases, including Skelos’ conviction in December on federal bribery, extortion and conspiracy charges, were brought largely by federal prosecutors.
Kaminsky, who spent a decade as an assistant district attorney and federal prosecutor, said his bills would empower district attorneys to bring such cases.
“District attorneys throughout the state are clamoring for the tools they need to make these cases because we know corruption exists at every level and needs to be rooted out,” Kaminsky said at a news conference in Long Beach.
Kaminsky will face Republican attorney Christopher McGrath in a special election on April 19.
Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif criticized Kaminsky for failing to support a 2015 bill by Senate Republicans that would have stripped officials convicted of public pensions. Kaminsky instead voted for a similar bill offered by Assembly Democrats. Neither measure was enacted.
“Todd Kaminsky isn’t a reformer, he’s a typical politician who is standing in the way of the change we need,” Reif said.
Kaminsky’s proposed legislation would make it a crime to give false statements to a district attorney, their assistants or investigators. Similar provisions exist on the federal level but not in state law.
He also would increase penalties for public officials charged with corruption. Public officials who commit crimes currently do not face enhanced punishments for abusing their office.
Kaminsky’s proposals also would target individuals who offer bribes to public officials but whose overtures are rebuffed or ignored. Currently, an individual cannot be charged with bribing a public official unless there is a “mutual agreement” between the two sides.
The bill would tighten the threshold for committing felony bribery. Under the bill, an official could be charged with first-degree bribery for accepting at least a $3,000 bribe. The current minimum for first-degree bribery is $100,000.