The Committee to Save New York, a well-funded lobbying organization that happens to always support Governor Andrew Cuomo’s agenda, has been in the headlines in recent days over whether it should disclose the source of its $17 million in contributions. In particular, Ravi Batra, who sits on the state’s new ethics panel, has made a big deal about whether recently adopted disclosure rules were improperly moved from June to July this year, which, as it’s on the cusp of the six-month filing deadline, has the impact of moving the disclosure period six months ahead.
Mr. Batra, the loan dissenter in the ruling, said the move creates “a net effect of a delayed 6-month stealthy cloaking worthy of a Klingon warship in Star Trek.”
In a freewheeling discussion on Inside City Hall last night with multiple political consultants, the host, Errol Louis, asked Committee to Save New York’s spokesman, Mike McKeon, about these changes and whether the fix might have been in to help the organization avoid disclosing its contributors. Needless to say, Mr. McKeon strongly pushed back on that insinuation as the two discussed the top lobbying group in Albany.
A partial transcript of that discussion is available below:
Errol Louis: There was a bit of a flap last week when it turned out that JCOPE, the ethics committee up in Albany, had amended its rules in such a way that one of the members had threatened to sue or resign. The long and short of it, we reported this all last week, is that the Committee to Save New York, which is very close to and supportive of Governor Cuomo, seems to have engineered things in such a way that we’re not going to find out anytime soon who has contributed to it although it is the single largest lobbying group up in Albany. Mike, wave disclosure, you’re working for Committee to Save New York, but let’s just ask you-
Mike McKeon: Let me start–
Louis: Hold on, hold on. Nobody is alleging anything illegal–
McKeon: Well, you just did. You said ‘engineered something,’ ‘the Committee engineered something,’ That’s an allegation in and of itself that I object to immediately. We didn’t engineer anything.
Louis: Okay, it so happens that every lobbying group except for them will have to disclosure what they did, who gave to them a year ago, and we still don’t know who’s given to the Committee.
McKeon: No, what happened is that you had good government groups go to JCOPE and testify — that groups that are well-known good government groups — they went up to Albany and said, ‘We think the deadline should be June 1st,’ or July 1st, whatever they testified. They testified for that. The headline of this story could be, ‘Good Government Groups Get What They Want.’ Alright, that’s what happened, three of the four good government groups asked for a particular date–
Louis: If the largest lobbying group in Albany doesn’t disclose who has given to it, is that transparency?
McKeon: We have completely complied with all disclosure laws, and completely —
Louis: Like I said, no violation of the rules or the law, is it transparency though?
McKeon: Well, again the governor put together an ethics law that changes the laws and going forward there are these requirements put in place. And so everybody in that world, not just the Committee to Save New York, there are other groups in that space, they will have to comply. We’re not the only group that this applies to, there are many groups that this applies to. We’ve always complied and always will comply.
Louis: So, just to be clear on what you said, going forward you’ll comply. However, it’s maybe just a matter of luck and convenience that the first, what, $12 million or so, is completely shielded from public view?
McKeon: It’s the law. We complied with the law.
Louis: You had no choice but to comply with the law, right?
McKeon: Well, that’s what we chose to do, we complied with the law. We feel that’s sufficient.
Louis: Alright, anyone else think that this is transparency?