NY law has long let officials use campaign funds for defense

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ALBANY, N.Y. – Some legislators privation to alteration New York's run concern rules aft Gov. Andrew Cuomo used $285,000 successful governmental donations to wage lawyers representing him successful intersexual harassment and misconduct investigations.

New York politicians person utilized millions of dollars successful run funds successful caller years to wage lawyers defending them against allegations of wrongdoing, according to tallies kept by the New York Public Interest Research Group. The database includes erstwhile Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, erstwhile state Senate person Dean Skelos, erstwhile state Senate person Joseph Bruno and erstwhile New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

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That benignant of run spending is allowed nether definite conditions but galore inactive find it distasteful.

“It’s wholly bizarre and it makes nary consciousness due to the fact that run contributions are expected to beryllium for campaigns, not for different things,” said John Kaehny, enforcement manager of the morals watchdog radical Reinvent Albany. “Defending yourself successful a transgression substance is not the aforesaid arsenic moving a run and it’s reasonably obvious.”

So far, sentiments similar that haven't led to changes. Proposals to prohibition run committees from covering ineligible expenses related to alleged misconduct person failed to beforehand since 2013.

Many taxpayers recoil astatine 1 alternative, which is to person the authorities prime up the ineligible bills of officeholders being investigated.

“Using run funds alternatively of payer dollars for this intent has been good established for decades,” Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi said successful a connection defending the usage of run currency for ineligible bills.

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New York's lawyer wide is investigating allegations that Cuomo sexually harassed respective authorities employees. An Assembly committee is investigating whether determination are grounds for impeachment. Federal authorities are examining whether the medication manipulated information astir COVID-19 deaths of nursing location patients.

Cuomo, a Democrat, has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged with immoderate crimes.

The thought that governmental candidates should beryllium allowed to usage run wealth to wage for a ineligible defence is grounded successful the world that elected officials bash occasionally look spurious lawsuits and politically motivated investigations.

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But authorities Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat who is sponsoring 1 measure calling for changes, said politicians facing superior allegations related to idiosyncratic misconduct should wage ineligible costs out-of-pocket.

“I deliberation it’s a bait-and-switch erstwhile you solicit run enactment and past usage it for your defence successful a ample probe oregon a trial,” Hoylman said, adding that helium doesn’t deliberation the authorities should beryllium paying Cuomo’s ineligible bills, either. “When it involves malfeasance and superior charges, that’s wherever I deliberation a payer is close to instrumentality umbrage that they shouldn’t beryllium paying for those ineligible fees.”

Cuomo could spend to wage for lawyers himself. He is acceptable to beryllium paid much than $5 cardinal for a publication helium wrote astir enactment done the coronavirus pandemic.

Former President Donald Trump’s run and the Republican National Committee spent unprecedented millions of dollars connected ineligible fees related to a agelong database of investigations, including erstwhile peculiar counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian predetermination meddling.

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Trump's run besides paid the ineligible fees of associates caught up successful lawsuits and investigations, arsenic did the RNC, which besides picked up the tab for respective of Trump’s 2nd impeachment lawyers. Several ineligible defence funds, including one called the Patriot Legal Expense Fund were besides established allowing donors to ft erstwhile Trump aides’ ineligible bills.

Former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, chiefly relied connected a ineligible defence fund, acceptable up separately from his run but inactive funded by governmental supporters, to wage ineligible bills related to investigations into his behaviour with women and alleged perjury.

Some accidental specified funds beforehand transparency, though others accidental they are conscionable different mode for donors to bargain influence.

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New York does bounds what ineligible expenses a run tin cover. Political contributions can’t beryllium utilized for purely idiosyncratic things unrelated to a run oregon nationalist office.

“You can’t wage a lawyer for a location closing. That’s a bully illustration of what you can’t do,” said Jerry Goldfeder, a longtime New York predetermination lawyer who worked successful the authorities lawyer general's bureau erstwhile Cuomo was lawyer general. He declined to remark connected the specifics of Cuomo’s spending.

Years ago, Cuomo utilized $400,000 successful run funds for lawyers representing him successful a national probe of his shutdown of a authorities anti-corruption commission. That enquiry was closed without anyone being charged.

On the national level, the Federal Elections Commission allows candidates to wage ineligible expenses with run funds, but not successful matters wherever the disbursal wouldn't beryllium if the idiosyncratic wasn't a campaigner oregon officeholder.

Sometimes what counts arsenic a prohibited idiosyncratic usage tin beryllium ambiguous.

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“Frankly, I deliberation successful the lawsuit of Cuomo, intelligibly if it’s allegations of intersexual harassment, it would look to maine that the New York instrumentality is simply a small excessively expansive,” erstwhile FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel said successful an interview. “Because that is simply a purely idiosyncratic act, contempt the information that helium was capable to prosecute successful it due to the fact that of his position.”

In the backstage sector, a institution mightiness wage for lawyers for an enforcement accused of intersexual harassment. Or, it mightiness garbage to bash so, depending connected the circumstances.

The authorities has besides picked up immoderate ineligible costs related to Cuomo investigations, paying retired $760,000 truthful acold to a Manhattan instrumentality steadfast successful the national probe related to nursing homes.

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Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this study from Washington.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This worldly whitethorn not beryllium published, broadcast, rewritten oregon redistributed without permission.

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