ALBANY - Democrats in the nearly powerless State Senate minority scored a small legislative victory Monday but won a bigger political point by calling for an end to a source of massive campaign donations by corporations.
The Democrats used one of the few chances allotted them under Senate rules to force a bill to a vote in a committee controlled by the Senate’s Republican majority. The Democratic bill called for an end to the practice of corporations using a loophole to exceed the campaign contribution limit for corporations.
“What does it say when Senate Republicans are so opposed to meaningful ethics reforms that they frankly have to be forced to even discuss these bills in committee?” said Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers).
Under what critics have called a loophole, a company can make campaign donations through a nearly limitless number of "limited liability corporations" created for tax purposes as separate companies. That allows a corporation to far exceed the limit for donations by a single corporation, often without identifying the parent corporation.
In her unusually bold statement Monday, Stewart-Cousins then made reference to a federal investigation underway involving Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and Deputy Majority Leader Thomas Libous (R-Binghamton).
"Obviously the only way we could begin to restore the public trust in state government is with action, not another session of empty promises in the wake of yet another scandal,” Stewart-Cousins said in a news conference.
Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif said the majority conference hasn’t yet discussed the proposal and has no position on it yet.
The Senate Elections Committee was forced to consider the measure pushed by Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Manhattan), then adopted it. But that doesn’t mean the measure will reach the Senate floor. Republicans could block the measure in another committee or let it die in committee without action.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School said the so-called LLC loophole "makes a mockery of the election law."
Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who benefits more than any New York politician from the loophole, also supports ending it.
Democrats will take another shot at toppling the Republicans’ slim majority in the November 2016 elections.