STATEMENT BY THOMAS A. LOUGHRAN
As we stand here today, we find ourselves in an unprecedented situation. For years and years, people who follow New York State government have cited jobs, economic development and keeping taxes down as top priorities. That was then, this is now. Today, anywhere from 80 to 97 percent of all State residents have cited corruption as the Number One issue that State government has to address. To date, 41 members of the State legislature have been charged with corruption, many have been convicted and many today sit in prison. And, most shockingly, in the past year both the former State Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the Assembly have been sentenced to prison – two out of the famous “Three Men in a Room” are about to serve lengthy terms behind bars. Albany’s burning while the Legislature fiddles.
What a sad situation.
Michael Ranzenhofer is the poster child for everything that’s wrong in the State legislature. Instead of fighting for reform, he blocks it. It was recently noted by Common Cause that on February 18, 2016 Senator Michael Ranzenhofer made Buffalo headlines by promising to block campaign finance reform, as he also did in 2015. “The bill in question would close what’s known as the ‘LLC Loophole’ – which essentially permits special interests to donate unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns in New York,” Common Cause wrote. Not surprisingly, Ranzenhofer is directly enriched by LLC Loophole contributions from New York City real estate billionaires. Currently, Ranzenhofer has close to $700,000 stockpiled in his campaign account, a healthy percentage of that coming from special interests abusing the LLC Loophole. Money he can take with him when he leaves office.
The thrust of my campaign is simply this: In Albany, there’s too much power in too few hands for too long. I’m going to carry a message to Albany from the 61st District.
Here’s what we’re going to do:
We’re going to limit the number of years the Majority Leader of the Senate and Speaker of the Assembly can serve in their leadership posts. Each house’s leader can serve three two-year terms in leadership, for a limit of six years total;
The Legislature committee structure should be revamped to include rotation of committee chairmanships among members – again to a limit of three two-year terms for a total of six years;
This next reform will greatly reduce corruption. The way the system works now is that legislators not only collect a State pension, but take with them excess unexpended campaign funds. This money can be used for a variety of questionable purposes, including using these funds to travel, lease cars, and even hire defense attorneys in corruption cases. I believe these funds invite corrupt practices. In fact, legislators who are unopposed for re-election or face token opposition, continue to raise funds that are clearly not needed, but, that they intend to take with them. My proposal is that upon leaving office, these funds should be either returned to donors or directed to charitable organizations in their community;
This next reform cuts to the heart of what is truly representative government. We now have a system where State legislators are picking their voters instead of the other way around, where voters directly pick their representatives. Political reapportionment, which takes place every ten years, has gone way off track. The result being competitive elections in either house of the State legislature are a rarity. The redrawing of the lines every ten years needs to be taken out of the hands of legislators and put into the hands of non-partisan citizens dedicated to honest and principled government.
These reforms, along with the previously mentioned closing of the LLC Loophole, will root out corruption, restore confidence, and return dignity to the office of State legislator.