Barbs Fly as Bipartisan Ethics Bill Stalls in NY

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Gov. David Paterson speaks after being sworn in as (L to R behind) Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno listen.

    Even as their bipartisan ethics reform stalled this week, vetoed by Gov. David Paterson, Republican and Democratic senators accused each other of hypocrisy and impropriety, making an override unlikely.

         The governor, who said the legislation didn't go far enough, sent letters Wednesday to party leaders in the Senate and Assembly inviting them to negotiate a transparent ethics system that ends "the disproportionate influence'' of special interests and lobbyists in Albany.
        
    Earlier Wednesday, the Senate Democratic Conference issued a statement accusing Republicans of "blatant hypocrisy'' for finding fault with the bill they voted for before Paterson's veto.
        
    Conference spokesman Austin Shafran called Republican criticism a "desperate attempt to rewrite their own history of ethical failure.''
        
    On Tuesday, Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos said his party members, now in the Senate minority, wanted to work with Paterson to improve the bill and add independent ethics enforcement instead of leaving it to Democratic counsel.
        
    "In fact, on the day the Senate passed the ethics bill, we offered three amendments to improve it,'' Skelos said. "However, every Senate Democrat voted to reject our proposals.''
        
    Senate Republican spokesman John McArdle added Wednesday it was "unfortunate'' the Democrats are refusing to develop a stronger ethics bill.
        
    In announcing his veto, Paterson said the bill didn't do enough to address the "corrosive effects of outside influence and internal decay'' that have caused New Yorkers to lose faith in their government.
        
    The bill would require more disclosures and subject the financial reports of lawmakers and lobbyists to random reviews for accuracy; establish a new legislative ethics office of non-legislators; and let campaign finance enforcement counsel initiate investigations.
        
    Meanwhile, Paterson's office declined to say Wednesday whether he will sign or veto another ethics bill that would make it illegal for the governor, lawmakers, trial court judges and other public officers and state workers in New York to use state resources for personal or campaign business.
        
    Sponsors said current law does not explicitly prohibit mixing state and private business. Their bill would ban the practice, also making it felony fraud when it involves taking more than $1,000 of government property or services.
        
    That bill, which passed the Senate by voice vote and the Assembly 142-0 in January, reached Paterson's desk Wednesday. He has 10 days to make his decision, spokesman Morgan Hook said.