According to the New York Post, and the Albany Times Union, oil-giant Chevron has filed a complaint with JCOPE against NY Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. According to the Post story, the complaint alleges that:
DiNapoli has engaged in an “apparent quid pro quo” by accepting thousands in contributions in return for his efforts on behalf of plaintiffs in an environmental case in Ecudaor.
“DiNapoli has apparently misused his official position,” according to the complaint, “Comptroller DiNapoli and his office have aided a fraud apparently in return for money, in the form of campaign contributions.”
Courtesy of the Albany Times Union, here is a helpful Summary of Chevron’s JCOPE Complaint.
Lest we be too harsh on DiNapoli, it’s best to remember that he only appears to be following in a long tradition of highly questionable — and at times downright illegal — practices at the Comptroller’s Office. Every Comptroller since Ned Regan has come under scrutiny for engaging in pay to play of one form or another.
Here’s an 1990 opinion piece from the New York Times lambasting Ned Regan after the “disclosure of a memorandum written by one of his senior aides that proposed a fund-raising strategy under which ‘those who give will get'” and the subsequent disclosure that, in 1988, “Mr. Regan paid consultants $260,000 for helping him invest state pension funds in a $25 million Boston office building. Just three weeks before the deal closed, the firm contributed $10,000 to Mr. Regan’s campaign.”
Then, there’s this New York Times 1998 report, detailing Carl McCall’s choice of three law firms that were chosen over 11 others to represent the $105 billion state pension fund in lucrative contingency-fee cases, after which the firms and their lawyers gave “$165,000 to Mr. McCall’s re-election campaign.”
We all know what happened at the Comptroller’s Office under Alan Hevesi, who was just granted parole after his conviction for wholesale corruption.
Fast forward to DiNapoli. Back in 2009, the New York Times took him to task for promising reform at the Comptroller’s Office, yet “routinely accept[ing] contributions from those seeking to do business with his office, from investment firms, executives and law firms to intermediaries known as placement agents” and for also “taking money from law firms that do business with or are seeking business with the fund. Seven partners at the law firm Labaton Sucharow contributed $42,500 to DiNapoli 2010 after the firm was hired by Mr. DiNapoli to represent the office in litigation against Countrywide, the troubled mortgage lender.”
The New York Daily News reported similarly troubling news that DiNapoli, who vigorously opposes Governor Cuomo’s proposed public employee pension reforms:
Got a quarter of his campaign cash from the unions he is defending . . . . Of the $5.34 million DiNapoli has raised since taking office in 2007, labor has chipped in $1.4 million, or 26% of his total haul, according to an analysis done for the Daily News by the New York Public Interest Research Group. That percentage is three times more than the 8.5% average that labor donations made up in the fund-raising for all state candidates since 2006, the NYPIRG review found.
Long story short, DiNapoli is profiting off of the conflicts of interest that have plagued the Comptroller’s office for more than 20 years. Until New York replaces the Comptroller as the sole trustee of New York’s pension fund — or bans contributions from those doing business with the fund — pay to play will continue at the Comptroller’s office unabated.