As reported by the Daily News, New York State lawmakers have spent $7.5 million of campaign funds on legal fees since 2004. Furthermore, $300,000 alone was spent in the last “six months from political campaign accounts to cover legal fees stemming from multiple scandals.” The use of campaign funding to pay for defending oneself from scandals is not illegal under New York law. However, “how much of New York’s job growth can be attributed to the need for ever-increasing numbers of lawyers to defend state politicians?”
The Senate Republican Campaign Committee has spent the most on legal fees in the past six months. “Nearly $200,000 has been spent to Washington-based Covington & Burling to help fight subpoenas issued by Governor Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission.” Although the Senate Republican Campaign Committee has spent a large amount of money on legal fees, they are not alone in the use of campaign funding to pay for legal fees. The Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee has spent “more than $13,000 on legal fees in the past six months” to also defend themselves from subpoenas.
Campaign Committees are not the only Albany entities spending campaign funds on legal fees. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver spent $30,000 from his “campaign kitty” on legal fees after the scandal broke last year that he had allegedly covered up sexual harassment complaints from female employees of Assemblyman Vito Lopez. Former Assemblyman Vito Lopez has spent $395,000 “of campaign money on legal fees since 2004,” including spending campaign funds on legal fees defending against the sexual harassment claims.
Senate Democrats have proposed a bill that would stop the use of donated campaign funds on legal fees. However, the bill has had no movement in the houses so far.