Strong Action Needed to Clean Up Albany Corruption
Supports Statewide Ban on Fracking for Natural Gas
(Binghamton, NY) Howie Hawkins said today the epidemic of corruption that prevails in the State Capitol won't end until voters demand clean government – with their votes. Sen. Tom Libous is just the latest of nearly 30 state legislators indicted or pushed out of office for unethical behavior over the last decade.
Hawkins would reconvene the Moreland Commission that Cuomo just disbanded and empower it to complete its job. He would give it the funding it needs and the autonomy to let the commissioners hire staff this time without interference from the governor's office or the legislature. He would also establish an independent State Ethics Commission.
Hawkins has previously outlined a comprehensive tax plan to provide 95% of residents with a tax cut while raising an additional $30 billion. These funds would be invested in increased school funding and revenue sharing, enabling local governments to cut property taxes. (see http://www.howiehawkins.org/hawkins_blasts_rich_man_s_budget).
Hawkins, who called for banning fracking of natural gas during his gubernatorial campaign four years ago, said he was pleased by the recent Court of Appeals ruling upholding the right of local governments to ban it. Hawkins says as Governor he would transition the economy to 100% clean renewable energy, without nukes, by 2030. (see http://www.howiehawkins.org/earth_day_ny_greens_call_for_carbon_free_by_2030)
"While Watergate is viewed as our generation's greatest political scandal, the reality is that the morals of political officials have dramatically declined since then. Behavior considered shocking by public officials 40 years ago is now treated as routine. The great shift in wealth to the very rich over the last forty years has gone hand and hand with the perception by lawmakers that they are entitled to treat public service as a license to enrich themselves," said Hawkins.
Hawkins said that many key policy issues facing the state – from fracking to schools to health care – are decided on how the 1% can get richer. Fossil fuel companies continue to demand huge public subsidies as their profits soar and climate change accelerates. The drive for charter schools and high-stakes testing is driven by hedge funds and other financial interests. The big winners under Obamacare are insurance companies, who won a mandate for Americans to spend enormous sums for inadequate health policies that fails to provide comprehensive health care or pay all the bills.
Political corruption in the State Capitol has gotten worse under the Cuomo administration, who disbanded "his" Moreland Commission as soon as legislators began to feel the heat. Cuomo's recent reforms failed to require lawmakers to disclose the names of their clients they get outside income from. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver recently reported that he is paid nearly $750,000 to act as a rainmaker for a law firm. As Attorney General, Cuomo issued a get-out-of-jail card to Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, who was unusual primarily for his willingness to publicly boast that he was in office to help enrich his friends and 'business associates'.
Hawkins has been a long time critic of the partial public campaign finance system promoted by Cuomo and many good government groups, pointing out that it would enable large donors to still buy political influence. Hawkins supports a full public campaign finance system such as Maine and Arizona, where candidate have to collect a certain number of small contributions in order to qualify for equal and sufficient public campaign funding grants. Hawkins would also ban contributions from lobbyists as well as companies and individuals doing business with the government. He would also ban legislative employees from working on political campaigns.
Hawkins supports establishing an independent commission to oversee legislative compliance with ethics rules. The Joint Commission on Public Integrity (JCOPE) and the Legislative Ethics Commission (LEC) are compromised by segmented jurisdictions and leadership appointed by and staffing drawn from staffs of the very politicians they are supposed to investigate. Hawkins would give the Commission the resources necessary resources to vigorously investigate and punish ethics rules violations by members of both the executive and legislative branches. He would operate it under the following rules:
- No elected officials on its governing board.
- A five-year revolving door restriction for recent politicians or their staff members to serve as board or staff for the Ethics Commission.
- Apply Freedom of Information and Open Meetings Laws to the Ethics Commission.
Hawkins believes the legislature should be full time, especially with the enormous salaries and benefits they presently receive. He would bar income from outside work while serving a term in office. Legislators should be public servants, not a politicians getting rich from the work (show or no-show) they secure because they are legislators who influence legislation.
Howie hailed the recent Court decision upholding the right of municipal governments to ban fracking within their jurisdictions.
"The Green Party strongly supports the right of local communities to control development in their communities. Local people are usually the best to determine what is best for the public health and safety of local residents," said Hawkins.
Hawkins said that the best way to ban fracking in New York would be to vote for the Green Party in November.
"I campaigned four years ago on the need to ban fracking and want the opportunity to put an end to this once and for all. I oppose any investments in expanding our fossil fuel reserves and infrastructure. Instead, New York needs to put people back to work by investing in a transition to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030," said Hawkins. Hawkins also supports divesting the state's pension plans from fossil fuel companies.
“If Cuomo wins re-election and turns to his presidential ambitions, he is not going to challenge the pro-fracking consensus of the national Democratic party. Cuomo will not ban fracking. I will,” Hawkins said.