Assemblyman Charles Lavine, a Democrat running for Nassau County executive, introduced legislation on Monday that would prohibit political candidates from using campaign funds for criminal defense in federal indictment cases.
The bill comes after a number of politicians in Nassau County, including County Executive Edward Mangano, were brought up on federal charges and used campaign funds to pay for their defense.
“For too long, New York state election laws have been called the most lax in the nation,” Lavine said Monday at a news conference in Mineola. “Just in Nassau County over the past couple of years we have seen multiple indictments of public officials at every conceivable level of government.”
According to state Board of Election filings, Mangano, who was brought up on federal corruption charges in October, has paid more than $300,000 in campaign funds for his criminal defense since 2015.
Mangano and his wife, Linda, were indicted along with former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venittio on charges involving a bribery and kickback scheme with a previously indicted restaurateur.
“Chuck Lavine is a fraud,” Brian Nevin, a Mangano spokesman, said. “As Assembly ethics chairman, Chuck Lavine sat silent as convicted Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver spent $2.96 million in campaign funds on legal fees and now introduces legislation as political cover while running for county executive.”
Silver, who was convicted in a federal corruption trial in 2015, spent around $3 million in campaign funds on legal fees, records show.
Former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, who was also convicted in a federal corruption case, spent more than $750,000 in campaign funds for his defense.
“It’s important that campaign contributions be used for campaigning, not legal defense,” Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, said in a statement. “We urge lawmakers to support Assemblyman Lavine’s reform legislation.”
“My legislation will close this lifeline to corrupt politicians and stop this criminal activity before it happens,” Lavine said.
A version of this bill is being co-sponsored in the state Senate by Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford) and Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach).
Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran and County Comptroller George Maragos are also running for county executive as Democrats. Former state Sen. Jack Martins is running as a Republican.
Mangano has not said whether he will seek another term.