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Albany advocates pressure lawmakers to sign ethics pledge

Members of the New York State Senate work

Members of the New York State Senate work on opening day of the 2016 legislative session at the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in Albany. Credit: Hans Pennink


Eight of 211 state legislators signed onto the “clean conscience pledge” in the first 24 hours after it was rolled out Wednesday by good-government groups who hope to commit lawmakers to specific ethics reforms.

The online pledge was created by Common Cause-NY, Citizens Union and the New York Public Interest Research Group. The pledge seeks promises to support legislation to prohibit companies from exceeding corporate limits for campaign contributions by donating through subsidiaries; ban or limit outside income by lawmakers to avoid conflicts of interest; and require more public accountability on how millions of dollars in “discretionary spending” is allocated.

A day after the pledge was announced five senators and three Assembly members signed up. They are Sens. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), Jose Serrano (D-Bronx), and Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn). The Assembly signers were Assembly members David Buchwald (D-White Plains), Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn), and James Tedisco (R-Scotia).

Only Buchwald and Ortiz are members of a majority which would have to allow the bills to the floor for a vote.

Under the line “not yet signed,” Cuomo led the list of names.

“This is basic reform,” said Susan Lerner, of Common Cause. “This is not the beat-all and end-all.”

The public pledge is rare and failed in its last incarnation. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch tried to shame lawmakers into signing his pledge in 2011 to enact independent redistricting, rather than the usual process in which the Senate and Assembly majorities redraw election districts to protect their members. Although Senate Republicans, Cuomo and many Assembly Democrats signed Koch’s pledge to avoid being branded “enemies of reform,” redistricting was done months after the elections in much the same way as it had always been.

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