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Greg Ball, Ernie Davis, Justin Wagner violated campaign finance laws, NYPIRG finds

Justin Wagner, Greg Ball and Ernie Davis violates

Justin Wagner, Greg Ball and Ernie Davis violates of state campaign finance laws by not disclosing where they received theirs funds from and how they were spent.

Sen. Greg Ball (R-Patterson) has raised about $960,000 for his bid for re-election to the New York State Legislature, according to state campaign finance records.

But the identities of 387 donors who gave the colorful and outspoken senator $100 or more for his campaign are a mystery, claims a report issued Tuesday by NYPIRG, a good government nonprofit.

The report, titled "Malignant Neglect: The Abject Failure of the State's Campaign Finance Laws," found that Ball's failure to identify donors made him one of the worst violators of campaign finance rules in New York between January 2011 and January 2013.

The report paints a picture of politicians skirting campaign finance laws with ease, because the laws aren't enforced by weak state election officials. It found nearly 104,000 campaign finance violations throughout the Empire State in those two years.

"In Albany, it is unfortunately the worst of times for voters longing for ethical and transparent government driven by a functioning electoral system," the report says.

Ball's campaign listed partial information for 25 donors, such as only their home states, the report alleges. For another 362 donors, his campaign provided the state Board of Elections with little or no information, other than a name. Some donors gave as much as $5,000.

"By failing to disclose their addresses, his committee obfuscates any attempts to determine who funded his campaign," the report states.

Ball also didn't disclose the identities of 995 entities that received campaign expenditures of more than $50, as required by law, NYPIRG claims. That's nearly 67 percent of the total he spent over his two elections, the report states. He also failed to include other required information for 489 expenditures.

The senator's communications director, Joe Bachmeier, issued a statement saying Ball would correct the errors.

"We will provide all the information necessary and are glad that NYPIRG has brought it to our attention," said Bachmeier.

Other Hudson Valley politicians were also named in NYPIRG's report.

Mount Vernon Mayor Ernie Davis was also among the worst violators in regard to missing information on campaign expenses, with information missing for 479 recipients of campaign cash. So was Justin Wagner, Ball's Democratic challenger last year, with 379 omissions.

Wagner declined to comment.

Davis said he was unaware of the violations, but added that alleged errors in his financial documents probably weren't unique.

"I don't know anything about it," he said. "I'm sure whatever happens in this campaign happens in every other campaigns."

Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner failed to report the dates of 112 donations, the report alleges. He said he would gladly provide information on the dates if he can obtain the information.

"I will have someone look at my records and provide the info," he said. "This is the first time anyone complained to me about this. I also think that NYPIRG should have advised me of any inaccurate reporting. Compliance is very important."

Lastly, two political action committees established to defeat Ball -- Truth about Ball and Recall Ball -- did not file information with the state of Board of Elections since 2008. Together, they last possessed $250,000, according to their most recent filings.

The report acknowledges that missing dates, names and addresses might not seem significant. But many omissions can add up to conceal worse offenses, the report argues.

"The failure of a candidate to provide the address of a vendor they paid is not ipso facto evidence of corruption," the report says. "However, these omissions -- in such huge quantities -- can prevent auditors or members of the public from uncovering more serious violations of the law."

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo released a statement saying the NYPIRG study was evidence that lawmakers should devote more attention to his proposals to clean up political fundraising, including public campaign financing, tougher enforcement and other measures.

"The buildup of over 100,000 campaign finance violations over the last two years is unacceptable, and a clear sign that the current self-policing system at the Board of Elections does not work," the governor's statement said.

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