NEW YORK—Now that the primary election has narrowed the state attorney general candidates to Democrat Eric Schneiderman and Republican Dan Donovan, both candidates have launched initiatives and are in full campaign mode.
Donovan announced his plan to increase transparency at a press conference at City Hall on Sunday. His proposal is a three-point plan to fight fraud and corruption in the state Legislature.
The first point of Donovan's plan is to have the attorney general’s office gain original jurisdiction over corruption cases.
“Right now, the Attorney General’s office doesn’t have jurisdiction over these cases; they have to be referred,” he explained. “The attorney general’s office has 700 lawyers, 2,200 employees—they are in the best position to deal with public corruption cases. Many of the district attorneys have very small offices; sometimes it’s just the district attorney and two assistants, [so] they don’t have the resources to investigate a long-term public corruption case and possibly long-time prosecution.”
Donovan said that this would also eliminate any political ties a district attorneys might have with local political parties that may make an investigation more difficult.
The second point of Donovan's plan is to disclose legislators’ outside incomes, so that New Yorkers have an understanding of how the bills being debated may be influenced.
The final aspect of his three-point plan is an extension of current Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s Project Sunlight, a reform launched in 2007 that requires disclosure from non-profit organizations which receive tax-funded grants from legislators.
Under Project Sunlight, non-profit organizations submit documentation stating there is no conflict between them and the legislator giving the grant. Donovan says the year before Project Sunlight, 6,500 organizations applied for grants, and after it went into effect, 2,700 of those organizations did not follow through.
Donovan wants to implement this from the legislators’ side as well,requiring an affidavit signed under penalty of perjury by the legislator. The affidavit would state that the legislator has no financial interest and does not financially benefit from the grant transaction, and that the organization does not employ any relatives of the legislator.
“New Yorkers should have every faith that their tax dollars are being allocated to not-for-profit organizations that are providing critical services in our communities, not to organizations being used as the personal piggy bank for politicians who have long forgotten who they were elected to serve,” Donovan said. “I think this will have a chilling effect on any not-for-profits that may not be playing by the rules.”
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