You can't say New York State Democrats are a cheap date.
The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee distributed documents yesterday in an effort to reach out to women, lawyers, environmentalists and others for fat donations to their campaigns. The New York Postreported Wednesday that DSCC chairman, Sen. Jeff Klein of the Bronx, was offering an "exclusive meeting" with Senate Leaders -- to the tune of $50,000 a pop.
Although New York Public Interest Research Group Legislative Director Blair Horner compared the offers to "eBay, Albany-style",
DSCC executive director Josh Cherwin said the councils were completely legal.
"[They are] an accepted form of fund-raising utilized by state and national political parties," he said.
Susan Lerner of Common Cause NY, a government watchdog, said the practice should be considered an ethics rules violation.
"This sort of blatant pay-to-play fundraising confirms the public's worst suspicions about how business is conducted in Albany: Lawmakers and our state's public and fiscal policy are up for grabs to the highest bidder," Lerner said.
The Democrats' program is similar to a $25,000 offer for insider access offered by the former Senate Republican majority under Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, who was convicted of unrelated corruption charges this year.
In a letter to potential donors, Sen. Jeffrey Klein, a Democrat representing the Bronx and Westchester, noted those who pay and
participate will be invited to a Democratic Majority Conference Leadership Meeting, policy briefings, a spring gala, and end-of-session reception in June and a labor reception.
The state Senate Democratic Campaign Committee noted that several Republican campaign committees offer similar deals.
The practice would have been banned under Gov. David Paterson's ethics bill, which was rejected this year by the Senate and Assembly. He subsequently vetoed the Legislature's ethics bill as too weak.
"This is exactly why I vetoed it,'' Paterson told WOR's "John Gambling Show'' on Thursday. "Nothing in their bill addressed 'pay to play.'''
"The ethics reform bill I wanted the Legislature to pass, and they wouldn't, would cure this in a heartbeat,'' Paterson said.