Governor Kathy Hochul, like previous governors before her, is not afraid to use the power of the office to her advantage. âShe uses her position as governor to collect huge amounts of campaign contributions, which is also consistent with her predecessors,â said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, a good government group.
Hochul was able to raise $34 million in June, according to the New York Times, in a very short period of time, suggesting she could amass the Very expensive gubernatorial campaign in state history. “She’s embraced this kind of American worldview, which you raise as much as you can and lessens the electoral threat,” Horner said.
Although she entered office promising “a new era of transparency,” ethical questions about her fundraising and leadership have obsessed Hochul from the start. “The longer she’s been governor, the less willingness and openness we’ve seen and that’s certainly cause for scrutiny, if not concern,” said Tim Hoefer, chairman and chief executive of the watchdog group. Empire Center for Public Policy.
In an emailed statement, Hochul spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays said the state’s first female governor prioritized ethics and transparency, “adopted new policies to ensure a safe and respectful workplace…, improved the process of filing public records and continued to publish its tax returns and schedules, and made reforms to increase transparency and accountability in the entire state government.She also noted that Hochul had signed an executive order requiring state employees to undergo ethics training and forcing agencies to come up with public transparency plans.
Here is a list of bad looks from the Hochul administration.
Major donor’s $637 million in expensive COVID-19 tests
This continually unfolding ethical crisis hit the Hochul administration last winter when COVID-19 levels soared. The union of time originally found in July that New York had purchased about $637 million in COVID-19 home testing kits from Digital Gadgets, an intermediary supplier owned by Charlie Tebele who, along with his family members, has made hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions in the Hochul countryside. In a follow-up report, The Times Union found that the state purchased a significantly higher amount Digital Gadgets test kits than all other companies combined, and at a higher cost, on average. This was then followed by the most recent report this month, which showed California was paying 45% less than New York for the same tests by bypassing the middleman and ordering directly from the manufacturer. The New York Post recently revealed that the Hochul campaign hired Tebele’s son as an intern. The Hochul administration maintained that it was unaware that the owner of Digital Gadgets was a donor and that the purchase of the Digital Gadgets test kits was absolutely necessary to deal with the pandemic, even going so far as to say that ‘she “everything would start again.â Crampton-Hayes said the tests were purchased during a time of high demand and Hochul did not oversee the procurement process.
Accept donations from appointees â through a loophole
The New York Times reported in August that Hochul had accepted at least 40 donations totaling more than $475,000 from people (and in some cases their family members) she or her predecessor had appointed to state boards and commissions. . This is despite a current executive order, renewed by Hochul herself, that bars these appointees from contributing to the campaign of the governor who nominated them. The Hochul administration’s defense has been that the donations are made up of Cuomo appointees and Hochul appointees who had made donations before receiving their nominations from her. These justifications allowed them to circumvent the deontological order, but this revealed a flaw. As Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group put it, “New York’s (ethics) laws are so weak and poorly enforced that just about anything goes as long as you stay in the weak safeguards that exist.” Crampton-Hayes noted that Hochul named more than 350 people, each of which required a vetting process.
Russ Maxwell and Medical Response Services
July 2022, the Union Times reported that the state Department of Health awarded Medical Answering Services a multibillion-dollar contract to act as an intermediary in arranging transportation for doctor’s appointments for Medicaid patients . Russ Maxwell, president and owner of Medical Answering Services, has been revealed to be a longtime Hochul “fan” and donor. The Times Union discovered that Maxwell had organized a fundraiser on behalf of the Hochul campaign and made contributions amid the DOH decision-making process. The DOH responded to the story, citing its more than 10-year partnership with Medical Answering Services and saying Hochul’s office has no influence over its decision-making process. Hochul’s office said the same thing.
Bill Hochul and North Delaware
In an apparent conflict of interest which was noted prior to Hochul’s first day as governor, the company her husband works for has considerable business before the state. Bill Hochul, who previously served as a U.S. attorney under President Barack Obama, is currently senior vice president and general counsel for Delaware North, a hospitality and gambling giant. North Delaware has many companies around the state, with or without state contracts, including food and beverage concessions at Niagara Falls State Park, two upstate airports, and the current Buffalo Bills Stadium. A state contract has already been renewed under the Hochul administration and another is planned for renewal at the end of the year. As Buffalo News reported, it was announcement before Hochul’s term began that Bill Hochul would remain in his post at Delaware North while simply recusing himself from matters involving the state. However, ethics experts did not buy into the recusal plan, with some saying his mere presence at the company induces a conflict of interest. Crampton-Hayes noted that Hochul is the first governor (according to the administration) to have made public her recusal policy â which commits her to recuse herself from all state business involving her husband’s employer.
Plans for a new Buffalo Bills stadium
Hochul flexed his political muscle just months into his term with a major announcement for state and local governments to invest $850 million in the cost of a new Buffalo Bills stadium. While many wondered where the state would source the sum, it was reported that Hochul had recently strong armed the Seneca Nation to forgive its overdue debt of approximately $564 million from its casino revenue-sharing pact, temporarily freezing some of the nation’s bank accounts. After years of legal battle where the Seneca Nation tried to avoid paying its share to the state, Seneca Chairman Matthew Pagels made sure to point out that a new Bills stadium could potentially provide a lucrative deal for Delaware North â the company that employs the governor’s husband. . Delaware North already provides concessions for the current Bills stadium and is vying to continue do it in the new stadium. “Legal or not legal, from a perception standpoint, it sounds terrible,” Empire Center’s Hoefer said. âIf this is indeed something the governor believes is in the best interests of New Yorkers, they should go above and beyond to ensure that legally and perceptually it looks and feels like something that is actually going to be in New Yorkers’ best interest.” Crampton-Hayes said the Buffalo Bills would independently decide who to award a franchise contract at the new stadium and that Delaware North was not involved in stadium negotiations.
Brian Benjamin resigns amid campaign finance scandal
Eight months after being sworn in as Kathy Hochul’s lieutenant governor, Brian Benjamin resigned after charges of illegal campaign finance were dropped by federal prosecutors. The federal indictment alleged that during his tenure as state senator, Benjamin engaged in clear quid pro quo cases with developer Gerald Migdol, then went to great lengths to cover up the scheme, including during his background check for the post of Lieutenant Governor. The indictment details how Benjamin allegedly had numerous exchanges with Migdol for campaign contributions, including one instance where Benjamin used the power of his state senate office to direct Migdol’s education grants. the state to the Migdol charity. Benjamin denied any wrongdoing. It looked like Hochul was about to take a big hit from the scandal, but some quick political maneuvering kept him out of trouble. The state legislature passed a measure allowing Hochul to nominate a new running mate for the upcoming election, overriding a previous rule that would have left her stuck with a candidate under indictment. federal charge. Hochul says WNYC’s Brian Lehrer“I made the best decision I could with the information I had at the time, but clearly we need a different process, a more strengthened and streamlined process that can take us to more detail than we had at the time. We obviously weren’t aware that there had been any investigations by federal authorities or even the district attorney’s office at the time.”