This Sunday morning, Gary and I went to the Alabama Hunt club. I wanted to go there to listen and learn. Gary wanted to go skeet shooting. I will say it was a very positive experience and… A lot of fun.
The first business of the day was a gun safety class. The class had participants from early teens to folks in their 80s and 90s. I remember the instructor pulling a pencil out of his pocket and saying “If you make a mistake with this, you can erase it”. Then he pulled a bullet out of his pocket and said “If you make a mistake with this, there’s no way you can erase it”.
The men and women I met were warm and welcoming. It really is about respect. Isn’t it? I listened to those who wanted to talk and share their concerns about people judging them. Here, there’s a great sense of family. They hunt and target shoot. Gun safety is a priority.
It is a small world. Of all things, I ran into a customer, then a family from my neighborhood in Williamsville and an elderly woman who was the Eucharistic minister at my church. You see, we have so much more in common than people think. If we could just talk more and not let political operatives keep us apart, the world would be better. Wouldn’t it?.
Now, for the fun part. After the safety class, Gary went to skeet shoot. I wandered around and two gentlemen asked me if I would like to target shoot. I was concerned because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to because of the injuries I have to my shoulders and arms from the car accident I was in a few years ago. Fortunately, one of the men set me up so everything was comfortable. The rest is history!
I had five shots and all five landed in the center of the target. I asked if I could do something more challenging and he told me to aim for the half inch logo in the corner of the target. One try...perfect shot! Of course, I’m sure I have an advantage. Being a photographer for 30 years probably gave me an edge.
Joan Elizabeth Seamans for NYS Senate 61
Clean up Albany – now
Transparency measures passed by the New York State Senate could be useful, but they avoid dealing with the big issue of campaign giving. Derek Gee/News file photo
Legislators need to stop posturing, get serious by closing LLC loophole
It has been a big summer for Albany corruption. Four people, including Buffalo businessman Louis Ciminelli, were convicted in a bid-rigging case. Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was sentenced to seven years in prison. Former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was convicted again of bribery, extortion and conspiracy.
It’s an election year, so that means politicians are falling over each other to look tough on all of this corruption. The most recent version is some partisan jockeying over whether the Democratic-controlled Assembly should return in a special session to approve ethics bills passed by the Republican-controlled State Senate.
It’s too bad it’s just posturing. It’s time for real action.
The posturing: The Senate passed two ethics bills in June: a “database of deals” to permit the public to search online for detailed information about state economic development benefits, and restoring approval powers to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli over state contracts that were erased from his office by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers in 2011 and 2012.
Both are good bills, but the Democratic majority in the Assembly isn’t about to approve legislation designed to embarrass the governor in an election year. Likewise, the Republican Senate isn’t likely to approve legislation that affects Republican candidates more than Democrats.
Amid the posturing, neither party seems willing to attack the real issue: money, money and more money.
If the parties were serious, the change at the top of our list would be closing the LLC loophole, which permits companies to lavish money on political candidates.
Corporate donations are capped by state law at $5,000 per year, but the Board of Elections ruled in 1996 that a limited liability corporation is treated under the law like a person rather than a business. That means a single LLC can give up to $150,000 to a candidate for statewide office, while an individual can give only $60,800. And a company can create as many LLCs as it wants. The loophole is truly a gift that keeps on giving to New York politicians.
One real estate company, Glenwood Management in New York City, is known for using LLCs to donate early and often to state officeholders. Glenwood figured prominently in the corruption trials of both Silver and Skelos.
Cuomo has called for the elimination of the LLC loophole. Cuomo also happens to be one of the largest beneficiaries of LLC money. Politico New York reported in May that the governor had raised $16.54 million from LLCs since taking office in 2011.
Some senators have also received sizable LLC contributions from real estate developers. Closing the loophole has been a nonstarter in the Republican-controlled chamber.
There are other steps the governor and legislators could take to turn off the money gusher, starting with the amount of money that anyone – individual, company or LLC – may donate to campaigns. New York limits are more than 10 times the limit in federal races, including the presidency.
As for the bills that the Senate passed, we aren’t convinced they would have made much difference in the cases of Ciminelli and Alain Kaloyeros, convicted in the bid-rigging trial. Kaloyeros was found guilty of wire fraud and conspiracy in helping steer hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to LPCiminelli in Buffalo and COR Development in Syracuse.
Ciminelli and his family contributed more than $100,000 to Cuomo from 2009 to 2014. That was no secret, nor was the $300,000 in contributions that COR and its principals made to Cuomo’s campaigns. (The governor’s office announced last month that he would donate the contributions from Ciminelli and COR to charity.) Cuomo’s challengers – Cynthia Nixon, his opponent in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary, and Marc Molinaro, the Republican nominee – are hammering Cuomo on the need for ethics reform. The best way to silence them: Call legislators back to Albany to pass legislation that makes both sides scream with pain.