Senate passes ban on pay-to-play campaign donations

A bill co-sponsored by state Sens. Jen Metzger and James Skoufis to prohibit campaign contributions from companies seeking state contracts sailed through the Senate in a unanimous vote on Tuesday.

Under the proposal, companies would be forbidden to give campaign cash to state officials with contracting authority – meaning the governor, in most cases – while competing for contracts and for six months after landing one. They also would be forbidden to write pay-to-play campaign checks to the governor while lobbying for a potential contract opportunity.

“New York’s system of campaign finance reform has had an incredibly corrosive effect on our state’s democratic institutions,” Metzger, D-Rosendale, said in a press release after the 60-0 vote. “The legislation we pass today is an important step forward in ending this pay-to-play system. We have more work to do, but we are well on our way.”

Skoufis, D-Woodbury, said in a statement that he plans to introduce a bill to “extend this pay-to-play prohibition to individuals and businesses seeking permits from the state such as power plant approvals from the Department of Environmental Conservation.” That was a clear reference to Competitive Power Ventures, the company that shoveled $144,000 in campaign contributions to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Democratic Party while planning the $900 million power plant it is now operating in Wawayanda.

Skoufis said: “If you’re asking the state for a permit to operate a major facility you shouldn’t be able to donate to the campaigns of the people who will be approving your permit or appointing the commissioners who oversee the process.”

The pay-to-play ban passed by the Senate is awaiting action in the Assembly, where assemblymen Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, and Jonathan Jacobson, D-Newburgh, are among the co-sponsors.

Metzger has sponsored a separate bill that would ban all campaign contributions from businesses in New York.

The Senate also passed legislation on Tuesday that would require state politicians and candidates to identify their donors’ occupations and employers in campaign disclosure reports, just as federal candidates must do.

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