New York's "ghost committees" keep defunct campaign cash active

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Tomorrow will mark the end of yet another expensive campaign season across the country. But in New York spending will go on. In the Empire State, candidate campaign funds can continue to flow long after those candidates have exited the political stage.

As the New York Times wrote in an editorial last week, candidates for state office can maintain campaign accounts—and continue to dole out funds from them—long after they have left office, been convicted of a crime or even after they have died.

“Take Assemblyman George Amedore,” the Times says, “a Republican running for the State Senate, who recently received a $2,000 contribution from the Committee to Re-elect Senator Stafford. Senator Ronald Stafford, an upstate Republican, died in 2005, but the committee, now run by a former aide, has been doling out funds ever since.”

As the Observer reported earlier this year, Amedore is not the only recipient of Stafford’s posthumous largess. Another Senator died ten years ago while a committee in his name holds $100,000. The now-incarcerated State Sen. Carl Kruger, the Times reports, used more than $1.5 million from his campaign account to pay his lawyers, and still has $400,000 more available.

According to data compiled by the New York Public Interest Research Group, a left-leaning nonprofit, 42 former elected officials maintain active accounts holding a total of more than $10 million. Others may have simply stopped filing financial reports and, “potentially pocketed the balance,” said New York PIRG’s Bill Mahoney in an email to the State Integrity Investigation. 

State Sen. Liz Krueger has sponsored a bill that would eliminate such “ghost committees” by requiring candidates to close accounts either after they lose an election or when they leave office. The bill would have the money sent back to donor or given to charity, the state general fund or a number of other causes. A Senate committee voted down a version of the bill last year, but as the Times points out 2013 is a new year.

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