Frederick A. Davie, left, chair of the New York State Commission...

Frederick A. Davie, left, chair of the New York State Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government, and Sanford N. Berland, the panel's executive director. Credit: New York State Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government

Daily Point

Slow vanishing act for NY ethics panel

New York State’s current ethics panel apparently will keep operating — while in constitutional limbo — for who-knows-how-long.

The uncertainty is expected to last past the scheduled June 6 summer adjournment of both legislative houses in Albany. There is unlikely to be a “fix” — in the form of what commission officials have evoked as possible “interim legislation” — until the court process challenging this latest state ethics body is complete.

Earlier this month, an Appellate Division 3rd Department panel voted, 5-0, to uphold a lower-court ruling that had declared the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government, created in 2022, unconstitutional. “The Legislature, though well intentioned in its actions, violated the bedrock principles of separation of powers,” the appellate judges declared.

State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Marcelle first ruled on it last September, noting that the legislature created the commission without a constitutional amendment — and that the process to appoint its 11 members improperly forfeited the authority of the executive branch.

But a stay of the courts’ ruling remains in effect while the state, represented by Attorney General Letitia James, prepares to go to the state Court of Appeals. Meanwhile her office seeks to have Marcelle better define the scope of what he sees as the commission’s illegality.

For the time being, mandated filings and decisions with the commission will go on. With a kind of bureaucratic stoicism, the commission last week posted that it “continues to administer and enforce the state’s ethics and lobbying laws.”

That means they’re handling voluminous financial disclosure statements, lobbying registrations and reports, ethics training for the executive branch workforce, guidance on possible conflicts, and investigating and enforcing violations.

Also, the commission, which was budgeted for $8 million in the 2023-24 fiscal year, has been pushing a legislative agenda that includes making the electronic filing of all disclosure and lobbying statements mandatory and imposing noncompliance penalties for those who skip these filings.

This is the fifth New York State ethics body created since 1987, all of which proved problem-ridden. What’s the expiration date on this one?

— Dan Janison

Pencil Point

D.C. comics

Credit: Las Vegas Review-Journal/Michael Ramirez

For more cartoons, visit

Reference Point

The summer of our discontent

The Newsday editorial titled "Liberty, License and Law," and accompanying illustration,...

The Newsday editorial titled "Liberty, License and Law," and accompanying illustration, from May 22, 1967.

Recent college campus protests over the war in Gaza and forceful responses by police have sparked concerns about the prospect of more violence, similar to worries that attended the Black Lives Matter protests that began in 2020. But it is worth noting, as so often is the case in America, that we have been here before — and in this case, have seen far worse.

Newsday’s editorial board was thinking about that potential on May 22, 1967, when it considered one day the previous week that had seen a gun battle between police and rioting students at Texas Southern University in Houston that left one cop dead and three people wounded, a riot at Madison Square Garden in New York City where 11 people were injured when boxing fans expressed their dissatisfaction with a decision in a bout, and a Wisconsin incident in which “the leader of a militant Negro organization” warned that if state officials did not grant his group’s demands, “We’re taking over Milwaukee.”

“They are not isolated incidents,” the board wrote in a piece called “Liberty, License and Law.”

“Talk of riots, threats of mob violence and acts of violence are almost daily fare in newspapers and on television.”

The board lamented the degeneration of Henry David Thoreau’s notion of civil disobedience and wondered where the protests were headed.

“Once an individual decides to be selective in obedience to law, there is no stopping place,” the board wrote. “If it is desirable to violate the trespass law in the name of a good cause, why shouldn’t it be equally desirable to ignore the laws governing unlawful assembly? And if riots generate attention and stimulate change, why then perhaps riots are necessary. Doesn’t the end justify the means?”

The sense of a nation on edge was echoed in that day’s political cartoon which depicted a group of men with clubs smashing and cracking the Liberty Bell, with a caption that read: “Liberty and License.”

Perhaps Newsday’s board had a sense of what was soon to come. Less than a month later, the nation was convulsed by the period now known as the long, hot summer of 1967. More than 150 race riots erupted in major cities from coast to coast, including New York, Detroit, Newark, Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and more, in which dozens of people were killed and thousands of buildings were destroyed or damaged.

Soon after came violent protests against the Vietnam War, many of which took place on college campuses, including the infamous incident in which four college students were shot and killed by National Guard troops at Kent State University in 1970.

Breaking the law, from trespassing to violent acts, and aggressive law enforcement response have always been a part of protest in this country. And while the provocations then and now are different, we can console ourselves that the debate will be the same.

— Michael Dobie, Amanda Fiscina-Wells

Programming Point

The Point will be back Tuesday, May 28, after the Memorial Day holiday honoring members of the military who died for the nation.

Subscribe to The Point here and browse past editions of The Point here.


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months