New York’s sick joke of a “governmental ethics watchdog”

New York State’s “Joint Commission on Public Ethics” (JCOPE) was created by the “Public Integrity Reform Act” to “restore public trust in government.”

Percoco

JCOPE is run by toadies of Governor Andrew Cuomo. His top henchman, Joseph Percoco, was convicted of bribery. The trial also revealed he mis-used public resources for political work. Did JCOPE investigate this? No. When a judge actually ordered JCOPE to vote on investigating, it first appealed, but then agreed to vote.

Did JCOPE reveal the result of that vote? No! (But hasn’t investigated Percoco.)

But lest you think JCOPE is a toothless tiger on public ethics, they’re going after — with a vengeance — Kat Sullivan. Charged with “unregistered lobbying.”

Sullivan

Sullivan claimed that, while a student at Emma Willard school, she was raped by a teacher. She got a settlement from the school. And used some of it to push for legislation (which passed) extending the statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims.

This is the “unregistered lobbying” JCOPE is persecuting her for, bombarding her with threatening process and forcing her to incur legal defense costs. Raping her anew. The same JCOPE that gave a pass to bribe-taker Percoco.

Did Sullivan technically violate lobbying registration rules? I have no idea. But it’s obvious what those rules were really aimed at, and it sure wasn’t the likes of Kat Sullivan. The lobbying of public ethics concern is when special interests try to get legislation benefiting them financially, often by spreading money around.* The rules were aimed at bringing at least some transparency to those swampy waters.

Certainly not at hampering or tripping up citizen advocates like Kat Sullivan urging legislative action. Which of course is integral to democracy. In fact, the First Amendment protects not just freedom of speech generally, but specifically the right “to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” That’s what Kat Sullivan was doing.

JCOPE’s putting her through the wringer shreds the First Amendment. A brazen effort to intimidate anyone who, for public-spirited reasons, pushes for legislation. The theory could conceivably extend to writing letters or phoning legislators to urge action (if you do it enough).

This is un-American. An “ethics watchdog” that persecutes such citizen advocates on trumped-up technicalities while turning a blind eye to egregious insider scum like Percoco is what you’d expect in Russia, not America.

(I thank the Albany Times Union and reporter Chris Bragg for highlighting this story.)

POSTSCRIPT: The threshold for “lobbying” expenditures becoming subject to JCOPE regulation used to be $5000. Cuomo’s 2019 budget proposed lowering that to $250. The final number: $500. Gunning for even smaller fry than Kat Sullivan. Meantime JCOPE has published 100 pages of regulations for “grassroots” and social media advocacy. In the Democratic People’s Republic of New York.

* JCOPE has never punished anything in that realm.

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One Response to “New York’s sick joke of a “governmental ethics watchdog””

  1. WK Says:

    Looks like Cuomo should really be running on the Republican platform. His methods are very similar to T-Rump’s.

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