A modest step toward transparency began implementation in January 2019. Currently overseen by Seth Agata, Executive Director of the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), lobbyists in New York must disclose all the public officials they target. The purpose of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics is to eliminate conflicts of interest in lawmaking, campaign donations, and interrelated matters. The range of agencies involved in corruption and the creation of the JCOPE is described from a different angle in Corruption Compelled in which JCOPE is more of a foil and cop-out, sidestep, and skirt around the real cops.
JCOPE’s regulatory framework completed in 2011 but did not take effect until Jan. 1, 2019. There is a reason for this long road to implementation. The disclosure of names changes everything. They are of state lawmakers, agency employees and local unelected officials approached on questions of legislation, regulations, and billions of dollars related to most governmental matters. The new rules also allow those who watch the watchers get the names of lobbyists, their clients, and public officials and look for accountability. In the first required bi-monthly report Jan/Feb 2019, the Times Union reported the following lobbyists did not disclose adequately. Examples are:
- Bolton St. Johns
- Giorgio DeRosa
- Suri Kasirer Consulting
- Patrick Jenkins & Associates
- The Parkside Group (Harry Giannoulis)
Complying with JCOPE is less transparent and will remain so if JCOPE does not penalize lobbyists for rule-breaking and confront the issue in the courts. While the report from the New York State United Teachers NYSUT offered every detail, why the slow start among the big, multi-client players?
Why? A Catch 22? A Wrench in the Works?
David Grandeau filed a lawsuit against JCOPE claiming the regulations to be vague, illegal, and not based on a law passed by the state legislature. He also represents lobbyists about complying with state law. The suit has a SCRIBD Final, and under the terms of the settlement, Grandeau reached in December with the agency, if JCOPE seeks to penalize Grandeau’s clients for noncompliance with the regulations, JCOPE would have to rely on state law text and not rules. The settlement only applies to Grandeau’s clients. It’s not like people were unaware of this problem a Politico Story in 2015 highlighted Grandeau’s point (here). Twitter Feed (here).
A road map for lobbyist/client non-compliance is now available for all who seek to avoid disclosure. The collapse of the regulations for the lack of enabling legislation or statute requiring JCOPE to implement them is the game in play. If corruption is punished it could kill the law aimed at ending corruption a classic Catch 22. Just like the original. If you say you’ve been driven psychologically insane by war – the claim is a logical one and that makes you sane and you cannot be discharged.
Other reasons for NYS and JCOPE will do a poor job and develop a bad record is outlined carefully by the Center for Public Integrity. See their March 2015 article (NY State Gets a “D” for Ethics) for more information dating to 2012. A key criticism was any three members can kill an investigation among the fourteen assigned for service on the Ethics Board by the people they are intended to investigate. Catch 22 all over the place. There are others and the rules in 2019 are far more convoluted.
The first rule of power politics: If the public is upset — confuse them.
The route to a better state of New York looks directly at its annual commitment to $10-14 billion in capital budget spending and a large but tightening $180 billion expense budget. Corruption is not built into human nature — it is compelled. Participants in this process are needed to take on a role. One good idea is to volunteer with Represent NYC.
JCOPE Executive Director Seth Agata has said that the agency intends to enforce the regulations and that those who don’t follow them will be subject to punishment. A person to follow his activities, meetings, conferences, enforcement activities, and plea agreements is needed.
Walter McClure, Director of Communications and Public Information Officer. Contact him regarding questions concerning the regulated community, lobbyists, and clients of lobbyists regarding assurance of compliance with filing requirements. (518) 486-7842 or by email at [email protected]
Chris Bragg (Times Union 4/27.19) the political and investigative reporter for the Capitol Bureau and contributor to Capitol Confidential it is “unclear if the rule issued by JCOPE would hold up if challenged in court.” Contact him at (518) 454-5303, (518) 454-5619 https://twitter.com/ChrisBragg1 [email protected] Follow him.
The Office of the City Clerk website contains the Lobbying Bureau’s online filing application system, the site through which lobbyists and clients file reports under the Lobbying Law. For members of the public, Lobbyist Search, the public information database is accessed with reasonable ease. This is a black hole of data and people become exhausted A good example is New York Shame now very still and quite.
Photo of Seth Agata is by John Carl D’Annibale