June 10, 2015

Assembly Passes Legislation Bringing More Clarity and Transparency to Current Election Law

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Chair of the Election Law Committee Michael Cusick today announced the passage of two bills aimed at bringing more clarity and transparency to current election law. They would provide clear definitions of independent expenditure and political action committees for the purposes of election law (A7397-A, Cusick) and prevent contributions made to party "housekeeping" accounts from being used for unintended purposes (A07392, Simon).

"Now more than ever, we must work to restore our constituents' confidence in our electoral process," said Speaker Heastie. "These bills would help to ensure that the voices of all New Yorkers are heard and to limit the influence of big money in politics."

Political action committees (PACs) and independent expenditure committees (IE committees), and other such committees are currently undefined in New York election law. This legislation would clarify the law by adding definitions for PACs and IE committees and would state the allowable contributions and expenditures for both. The bill would also establish penalties for violating the law.

Currently, election law allows unlimited contributions to "housekeeping" accounts, which are campaign accounts established for the maintenance of a permanent headquarters, staff, and ordinary activities. The law specifies that these funds cannot be used to promote a candidate. However, the law does not specify whether funds can be transferred to other "housekeeping" accounts, or used for other purposes, such as opposing a candidate. This bill would clarify that any transferred funds must be kept in a segregated account for "housekeeping" purposes only and not utilized for unintended activities.

"These bills are a step in the right direction toward campaign finance reform," said Assemblymember Cusick. "Election laws are essential to democracy and cannot be left open to interpretation. Providing clear definitions and imposing penalties for breaking the law will help level the playing field and allow for more honest elections."