Citizens Union Foundation's watchdog publication Gotham Gazette provides New Yorkers with illuminating analyses on policy, long-form interviews with thought leaders, and under-reported stories about the actions of government and government officials. Read Gotham Gazette's latest stories.
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Your membership and contribution dollars fuel our work to advance political reform that includes every New Yorker. Your added voice strengthens our effort. The more people speaking out for state and local reform, the greater our powers of persuasion – with policymakers, the press, and the public. You are connected, and your support gives you a front row seat to witness and participate in the political process of New York City and State. Join Now
VOTE YES FOR A NEW YORK STATE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION
In the November 2017 election, the people of New York State will vote on whether they support convening a State Constitutional Convention. Citizens Union vigorously urges New Yorkers to vote YES. We firmly believe that New Yorkers must stand for a democracy worthy of its promise. A Constitutional Convention provides a once in a generation opportunity to “open” the state constitution and make much-needed reforms to improve the performance of our state government, strengthen the integrity of our political institutions and reform our broken 20th-century voting and electoral systems. Read the full statement.
SPENDING IN THE SHADOWS: TOTAL AMOUNT IS NEARLY $13 BILLION
Citizens Union has examined New York’s FY 2018 Enacted Budget and found that $1 billion in nonspecific lump sum funding “pots” were added to the FY 2018 Executive Budget proposed by the Governor, bringing the total amount of such funding that Citizens Union has identified to nearly $13 billion. Read the report .
SEEDS OF CORRUPTION ARE PLANTED AS BILLIONS IN TAXPAYER DOLLARS ARE SPENT IN MURKY PROCESS
Without transparency as to how this money is spent, the environment for the corrosive impact of money in politics is primed. Read the media advisory.
CIVIC GROUPS HAIL NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY PASSAGE OF PACKAGE OF COMPREHENSIVE VOTING REFORMS
The Voter Friendly Ballot Act is a much-needed reform that will remove unnecessary text and political party emblems from already cluttered ballots. We are pleased to see this package of bills pass in the Assembly and hope that the Senate will pass these reforms before the session ends. Read the press release.
CITIZENS UNION RELEASES REPORT ON NONSPECIFIC FUNDING IN THE FY18 NYS EXECUTIVE BUDGET
Today, Citizens Union released the latest edition of Spending in the Shadows, our report on unspecified lump sum spending in New York’s FY 2018 Executive budget. The report examines numerous pots of money under state government control that have few spending criteria, few constraints, and little public accountability – all part of a recipe for public corruption. Specifically, this edition documents $4.3 billion in funds that are subject to spending decisions by individual elected officials, representing an increase of nearly $2 billion from last year’s executive budget. The report also documents billions of dollars in other opaque funds that lack criteria for spending and does not specify any official as having authority.
DECISION NOT TO PROSECUTE DOES NOT GIVE MAYOR GREEN LIGHT TO CONDUCT BUSINESS AS USUAL
While investigations by the U.S. Attorney's and Manhattan District Attorney's offices found that there are not grounds to prosecute Mayor Bill de Blasio for his questionable fundraising activities, Citizens Union believes that the actions of the Mayor, if not legally impermissible, were ethically unsound. In a statement released after the conclusion of the investigations, Citizens Union argued, " It certainly does not serve the public good to create a pay-to-play atmosphere where New Yorkers who have business before the city feel the need to contribute financially to the Mayor's political and nonprofit interests in order to have their business favorably considered. " The end of these investigations signals the conclusion of the first chapter in the effort to curb this new species of pay-to-play activity, a chapter marked by the city's adoption of a local law very similar to a Citizens Union proposal aimed at limiting this type of elected official-affiliated nonprofit fundraising.
CITIZENS UNION FILES COMPLAINT CHALLENGING GOVERNOR'S "ETHICS" LAW IN COURT
Minutes before midnight, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, acting on behalf of Citizens Union and Citizens Union Foundation, filed our complaint against the State of New York, alleging that Governor Cuomo's recently enacted law regulating 501(c)(3) nonprofits that give to 501(c)(4) organizations violates our First Amendment right to free speech among other matters. Citizens Union believes that the law is overly broad in its scope and will impede the important work of many valued public charities and good government groups. "The law seems to be a solution in search of a problem and mainly serves to curtail the work of organizations like ours which seek to promote the public good," said Dick Dadey, Executive Director.
ACTION, NOT WORDS, ARE NEEDED TO PREVENT CORRUPTION IN OUR STATE CAPITOL
Citizens Union acknowledges and appreciates the sentiment behind the Governor's statements on proposed ethics reforms, but urges action over words on these reforms. In addition to pressing for actual ethics reform, Citizens Union identified other state officials, like the Comptroller and the Attorney General, who could implement reforms that the Governor proposed. "We are weary of his words that denounce the corruption but don't result in action that actually prevents it," said Dick Dadey, Executive Director.
COMPENSATION COMMISSION FAILED IN NOT INCREASING STATE LAWMAKERS' COMPENSATION
Dick Dadey, CU Executive Director, in a statement, calls the lack of a recommendation for a pay increase for state legislators a failure of the NYS Commission on Legislative and Executive Compensation. Measures are needed to prevent corruption but the salary of elected officials should not be part of a quid pro quo negotiation. "New Yorkers are also the losers," Dadey said in the statement, "since we will get what we pay for as fewer people choose to run for state office making our races less competitive and our politics more insider-like."
CITIZENS UNION ANNOUNCES CANDIDATE ENDORSEMENTS FOR THE NOVEMBER GENERAL ELECTION
After evaluating 13 candidates in 7 races across New York City and receiving questionnaire responses from dozens more, Citizens Union today announced their candidate endorsements for state Senate and Assembly races in anticipation of the November 8th General Election. These are the fewest candidates ever endorsed by the organization, due in large part to the fact that there are so few competitive elections: a full quarter of legislative seats in New York City will be filled by candidates who faced no General or Primary Election competition. "So many New Yorkers are not given a meaningful choice in who represents them in Albany? It is evidence of a political system in crisis and a democracy in need of reform.” said Dick Dadey, Executive Director.
LATEST CU BUDGET REPORT FINDS $19 BILLION IN UNSPECIFIED FUNDS IN 2017 STATE BUDGET
Today, Citizens Union released the latest edition of its watchdog report on the state budget, Spending in the Shadows, examining the NYS 2017 Enacted Budget. In the report, Citizens Union identifies $19 billion in nonspecific funds that have almost no detailed explanation for how the funds will be used and no accountable reporting to the public, providing NYS elected officials with a clear path to misuse taxpayer dollars. See the major findings in the news release.
CITIZENS UNION'S VOTERS DIRECTORY FOR THE 2016 PRIMARY ELECTIONS IS NOW ONLINE!
Since 1910, Citizens Union has undertaken a comprehensive evaluation of city and state elections and publishes the results in our Voters Directory. With the help of 42 member volunteers, Citizens Union is proud to release the latest edition of the Voters Directory covering the 2016 primary elections for state Senate and Assembly races online! In addition to listing CU's preferences in 11 races in New York City, the Voters Directory also provides information on incumbents running unopposed in NYC (who make up 56% of all NYC seats in the state Legislature), and a report on special elections and open seats.
CITIZENS UNION ANNOUNCES CANDIDATE PREFERENCES IN SEPTEMBER 2016 PRIMARY ELECTIONS
After evaluating 35 candidates in 15 competitive races and receiving questionnaire responses from dozens more, Citizens Union today announced their candidate preferences for state Senate and Assembly races in anticipation of the September 13th Primary Election. "The incumbent re-election rate will remain high again this season as there are even fewer contests for open and vacant seats in New York City, of which there are only seven. But we are pleased to provide some guidance to those New Yorkers who live in districts where there are real contests. We have supported those who we believe will fight against corruption and for democratic reform and are proud of those who have earned Citizens Union’s preference,” said Dick Dadey, Executive Director.
CITIZENS UNION PROPOSES LOCAL LAW TO REGULATE NYC ELECTED OFFICIAL-AFFILIATED NONPROFITS
In response to the increasingly common practice by elected officials to form non-profit organizations to support their policy agendas and their political aims, such as Mayor de Blasio's Campaign for One New York, Citizens Union has released a proposal for a local law that would require such New York City elected official-affiliated organizations to be treated similarly to political committees under the city's campaign finances laws and rules, which are subject to disclosure requirements and contribution limitations. CU believes that such a law is necessary to prevent city elected officials from organizing or directing organizations to advance their political interests without meaningful oversight. Both the NY Times and the NY Daily News issued editorials in support of Citizens Union’s positions.
MEASURES ARE NEEDED TO PREVENT CORRUPTION AND NOT JUST PUNISH CORRUPT OFFICIALS
CU's executive director, Dick Dadey, released two statements earlier this month, which called the sentencing of former legislative leaders Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos "just" and "fair," given their dishonest actions against the public interest. Federal judges sentenced Silver to 12 years in prison and Skelos to 5 years, in addition to ordering that they relinquish millions of dollars in fines and forfeitures between them. The number of public officials who have been forced from office due to misconduct in recent years reflects the severity of corruption crimes throughout the State of New York, and points to the need for preventative measures. While CU believes the sentencing of Silver and Skelos was necessary, punishment alone has not proven to be a strong enough deterrent of corruption.
Reform groups charge that the governor and legislative leaders have "kicked the can" by failing to act on ethics. The groups point out that not one ethics reform measure in the 3 ½ months since former legislative leaders Silver and Skelos were convicted of corruption has been passed and criticize that the calls to itemize and create back-end public disclosure and transparency of billions of dollars in secret state spending within the budget have gone unanswered.
Today, a coalition of government reform organizations delivered a letter and gathered at a press conference to called on Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and the other legislative leaders to hold a series of open public leaders' meetings to discuss and negotiate – in public – ethics reforms necessary to restore New Yorkers' battered confidence in Albany.
Citizens Union today released the fourth iteration of its watchdog report on discretionary state spending, Spending in the Shadows – FY 2017. The report finds the proposed executive state budget contains $2.4 billion in opaque "lump sum funds" which allow spending decisions to be made in the shadows by our elected officials after budget bills are passed. See the major findings in the news release.
The passed New York City compensation bills are a step forward for improving the salaries of our City elected officials and are supported by CU, as the raises appropriately reflects the value that elected officials bring to their jobs. But the fast-track way in which the bills were brought to the table reflects a flawed democratic process. Read our full statement.
CU TESTIMONY URGES COUNCIL TO DELAY PAY RAISE VOTECitizens Union testified at the New York City Council public hearing on pay raises for all city elected officials. We shared a number of recommendation but foremost urged the council to delay their vote on the compensation bill to make time for more public input. Read our full testimony here or our press release here.
The City Council's eager introduction of legislation around city elected official compensation, while it may include all four reforms long sought by Citizens Union, is unconscionable because it denies the public the input that it had during past cycles of reviewing and commenting on the matter of elected official salaries before a bill was introduced. Read the full statement here.
In a letter to the Governor and Legislative Leaders reform groups applaud the proposals included in the executive budget plan but again urged lawmakers and the Governor to sign on to the Clean Conscience pledge to close the LLC loophole, ban/limit outside income for lawmakers, and increase transparency in discretionary funding. See the press release here.
In his 2016 State of the State address, Governor Cuomo proposed important reforms that, if enacted, would help rebuild the public trust and protect New Yorkers. Proposals include limiting outside income, closing the LLC loophole, and a plan to create a constitutional convention commission. Learn more.