Politicians convicted of felonies could be stripped of campaign cash under new bill

Denis Slattery for NY Daily News

May 07, 2019

Originally published in New York Daily News on May 07, 2019.

Crooked pols may soon have to say goodbye to campaign funds if they’re convicted of a felony.

A bill that would require jailed elected officials to either return all donations remaining in their campaign accounts or donate the money to charity moved through the Senate elections committee Tuesday and is heading for a floor vote in the coming weeks.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Long Island Democrat and former federal prosecutor who replaced the disgraced Dean Skelos, would grant corrupt lawmakers two years upon conviction to return whatever money remains in their coffers or donate it to state or charity funds.

Kaminsky said voters he spoke to were “astounded when they found out people who have been stripped of their positions and convicted are still able to have campaign accounts, sometimes with six figures in them."

Several powerful elected officials have landed behind bars in recent years – while maintaining campaign accounts chock full of funds that could be used to influence other elections or donated to pals of the tainted felons.

“Once you are no longer in office and you have disgraced the position you should not have the right to take public contributions and use them to influence the political process," Kaminsky said, noting that several lawmakers who have fallen from grace had full control over hefty accounts when they were convicted.

The senator specifically noted that Carl Kruger, a former Brooklyn state senator who pleaded guilty in 2011 to bribery charges, had more than $450,000 in his campaign account.

Skelos, the former Republican state Senate Majority leader whose seat Kaminsky now holds, had almost $44,000 in his account when he was convicted on bribery and extortion charges last year.

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, convicted on federal corruption charges for the second time last year, had $1.6 million in his account when he was arrested in 2015.

The bill would not prevent lawmakers from using campaign cash for their legal defenses while facing trial, only force them to empty their coffers after conviction.