Chelsea IrizarryJul 18, 2018, 10:47 pmAug 8, 2018, 5:28 pm

Senators seek to close loophole in campaign finance law

State elected officials have spent over $7M in campaign funds on their criminal defense fees since 2004

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MINEOLA — Under current state law, an elected official is allowed to use campaign funds to pay for criminal defense expenses. Something several Long Island officials have taken advantage of.

“Contributor funds is to help someone get reelected, not to defend him for what he may have done in office,” Sen. John Brooks said.

Campaign finance reports filed with the State Board of Elections show so far that Ed Mangano has used $900,000 to pay his defense attorney. And campaign finance reports show that the former Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota paid lawyers over $100,000 from his campaign account. Spota is accused of helping cover up an assault on a suspect in 2012. Spota has denied any wrongdoing.

In some cases, if someone is found not guilty, there is even a possibility to recover those defense funds from the state.

But should this practice be allowed? Some New York state senators say, “No,” and that it's time to close loopholes in campaign finance laws. Several senators are co-sponsoring a bill that would prohibit the use of campaign funds to pay attorney's fees relating to the defense of a federal criminal indictment. The bill states, in total, state elected officials have spent well over $7 million in campaign funds on criminal defense since 2004.

Sen. Brooks, who is one of the co-sponsors, says using campaign funds for the legal defense of an elected official does a disservice to all those contributing to these campaigns.

“We really need to look at what has been going on with elected officials, and it is time to make some really needed ethics reforms,” Brooks said.

The bill is currently in the Senate Elections Committee.

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