New York Governor David Paterson is expected to announce a sweeping ethics reform package Wednesday, which is already being hailed as “the most ambitious ever suggested by a sitting governor in New York.” The proposals would create an independent commission to enforce ethics and campaign finance laws, and impose term limits for statewide officials, while revamping the state’s campaign finance system.
But Paterson’s agenda has at least one glaring omission — financial disclosure. According to the Center’s States of Disclosure project, New York received a C for its legislative financial disclosure requirements in 2009, ranking 16th in the country. The state does not require legislators to disclose information on clients or the values of any outside financial interests. New York is also one of only four states that notify legislators when someone looks up their financial disclosure form.
The lack of financial disclosure in New York was most recently brought to light when former state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno was convicted of failing to disclose information on a deal he made with a businessman seeking contracts from the state. Bruno’s sentencing is scheduled for March 31; he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 per felony count.
Of course, Paterson has tried his hand at ethics reform before. Last year, bills which actually did call for new financial disclosure provisions were ultimately blocked in the Senate.