Bill would stop convicted politicians from holding on to donor money

Posted: Updated:

A new measure under consideration would crack down on political corruption, just as state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos reported to prison.

The proposed measure would require elected officials to forfeit campaign donations if they are convicted of a felony. Currently, officials can use campaign donations to pay for legal defense, and even keep the funds if they are found guilty.

"When we don't require accountability from our elected officials, the public loses confidence in our government," says Assemblywoman Judy Griffin.

Skelos, a Republican from Rockville Centre, reportedly still has more than $40,000 in campaign funds. Manhattan Democrat Sheldon Silver, the former Assembly speaker who was also convicted of corruption, reportedly has more than $500,000.

Although campaign donations cannot be spent on personal expenses, critics say politicians often use them to benefit themselves.

"This money ends up being used for the continued political influence of the very people who have been found to have abused the public trust," says Susan Lerner, of the group Common Cause. "That's wrong. To pick their own successor ... that sort of thing? Pick their own successor or giving money to political parties."

If the bill is passed, any elected officials convicted of a felony would have two years to either return their campaign money to their donors or to donate it to an approved charity.

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