By Jon Campbell, Albany Bureau
ALBANY, NY-- Political candidates and committees in New York tallied up at least 103,805 violations of state campaign-finance laws since 2011, according to an Albany-based good-government group.
The New York Public Interest Research Group detailed the violations - nearly all of which went unpunished - in a report released Tuesday. They range from 278 corporations giving more than the state-mandated limit of $5,000 total to more than 44,800 instances of a campaign donation reported with no address listed for the person making the payment.
The report covers filings made between January 2011 and January 2013, according to Bill Mahoney, the paper's author.
"These range in severity quite a bit," said Mahoney, NYPIRG's research coordinator. "Some of them are flagrant violations of the state's contribution limits. Others are minor peccadilloes that show a complete disregard for the law because they occur in such frequent numbers."
Among those with a high number of minor violations were Sen. Greg Ball, a Patterson Republican, who reported 995 campaign expenditures of at least $49 and didn't have a complete address as to where the money went. Mount Vernon Mayor Ernie Davis is second on the list with 479 incomplete expenditure addresses, followed by Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, Niagara County, with 411.
Justin Wagner, Ball's 2012 Democratic opponent, was fourth with 379.
The report was released ahead of a Senate Election Committee hearing on campaign-finance reform, which kicked off Tuesday morning. Senate Republicans have been staunchly opposed to a public campaign financing system, which would match small donations to campaigns with public funds.
Only senators, witnesses, legislative staff and some media were allowed in a Capitol meeting room for the hearing, inciting vocal protesters in the hallway to chant loudly: "Let the people in!"
The demonstrators, who held signs in support of public financing, at times drowned out the witnesses who were testifying during the hearing.
A small group began protesting outside a window that opened to the Capitol lawn, whispering and heckling lawmakers. Security closed the window in the response, and state troopers asked the protesters to leave before the hearing continued.