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New Yorkers deserve a government they can trust. That is why Citizens Union has always advocated for a strong and independent system of ethics oversight, strict regulation of lobbying, and reforms focused on both preventing and punishing corruption in New York City and State government. Citizens Union serves as a watchdog for the public interest to restore faith in public institutions and make government better.

Rooting out corruption and ensuring that wealthy and powerful interests do not use backdoor channels, special access, and other nefarious means to influence our government has long been a key priority of Citizens Union, which was established to fight the corruption and patronage of the Tammany Hall political machine at the turn of the 20th century. We have supported the creation of New York City’s Conflict of Interest Board in the 1980s, pushed through a set of lobbying reforms in Albany in the 2000s, and most recently, pressed the State Legislature to replace the flawed state ethics agency, known as JCOPE, with a new and improved agency.

Legislative Agenda – Ethics

In 2023, Citizens Union will focus on improving systems of ethics oversight and enforcement in New York State and City governments, in addition to pushing for reforms that reduce pay-to-play culture in our political system. 

Citizens Union supports the following reforms to ethics. To see Citizens Union’s full 2023 policy agenda click here

Improve ethics oversight and reduce “pay-to-play” culture

  • Implement policies that would improve independence, enforcement, transparency, and training at the state’s Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government (CELG) – CU priority
  • Establish an independent ethics agency, with ethics commissioners chosen solely by persons not subject to the agency’s oversight (including judges), and oversight powers over the executive and the legislature – CU priority
  • Expand the state’s Ethics Code by including a duty to report known misconduct and not engage in sexual or other discriminatory harassment, linking the code with the NYS Human Rights Law
  • Improve lobbying disclosures by requiring lobbyists to specify support or opposition of governmental action, and report their contributions and fundraising activity, as done in NYC. 
  • Make political parties explicitly subject to the Lobbying Law. 
  • Make financial disclosures digital and public, and expand filers to include economic development entities.
  • Restrict contributions from those who do business with the state, and create a Doing Business Database to track entities involved in economic agreements with the state.
  • Restrict donation bundling by lobbyists and other fundraising intermediates.
  • Restore the State Comptroller powers to review and pre-approve contracts.
  • Empower the Attorney General to independently initiate investigations and prosecute cases involving public corruption.
  • Significantly limit outside compensation earned by state legislators, while increasing their pay.
  • Eliminate state legislators’ stipends.

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