Democratic state Sen. Andrew Gounardes denies that an anti-corruption bill he has introduced that has been nicknamed the “Golden Rule” is aimed at punishing Marty Golden, the Republican incumbent he defeated in November after a bitter and bruising campaign.
But two Golden supporters, Fran Vella-Marrone, chairperson of the Brooklyn Conservative Party and Ted Ghorra, chairperson of the Brooklyn Republican Party, issued a joint statement on Wednesday accusing Gounardes of “using his government office to settle petty political scores.”
The legislation, which would prohibit lawmakers and candidates from using campaign funds to pay for services provided by a business owned by a close family member, would prevent Golden from booking campaign-related events at the Bay Ridge Manor, a catering hall at 476 76th St. owned by one of his siblings, should he decide to run for state office again.
Golden held numerous events at the Bay Ridge Manor during his 16 years in the state Senate, including his Election Night party on Nov. 6 for which he paid $4,738.78, according to the New York State Board of Elections (BOE). Golden also used campaign funds to pay the $15,542 bill for a holiday party at the manor, according to the BOE.
Under current state election laws, Golden was not violating any rules by employing his sibling’s business.
At a press conference Weds. Feb. 20, Gounardes denied that he was targeting Golden and said the legislation isn’t aimed at any particular individual, but instead is an effort to prevent campaign finance corruption.
“This is a much broader issue,” Gounardes said at the press conference at a state and city government office building at 250 Broadway in Lower Manhattan. The bill is part of a planned overhaul of the state’s campaign finance system, according to Gounardes, who said current laws are “porous” and carry the potential for corruption. The press conference was originally scheduled to take place outside the Bay Ridge Manor but was moved because of concerns about inclement weather, Gounardes told this paper.
The bill’s name is derived from the “Golden Rule,” the old maxim about fair play, Gounardes said.
Politicians and candidates who hire family-owned businesses to provide campaign-related services are engaged in quasi-money laundering, yet it’s perfectly legal under current New York State law, Gounardes said. “The time has come in New York to close this egregious loophole,” he said.
The legislation was introduced last week in the state Senate by Gounardes, a Democrat who represents Bay Ridge and other neighborhoods in Southwest Brooklyn, and in the state Assembly by Assemblymember Robert Carroll, a Democrat whose district includes Park Slope.
Under the bill, candidates for state offices in New York would be prohibited from using businesses in which at least 35 percent of the business is owned by a close relative such as a parent or a sibling.
Violators could potentially face fines.
“The public trust is essential,” said Carroll, who added that citizens deserve to know that elections are fair and above board. “This is about holding ourselves to a higher standard,” he said.
Candidates should not be allowed to “enrich themselves and their family members,” Carroll added.
Gounardes defeated Golden in the election following a bitter campaign in which the two men traded barbs and accusations at several debates.
Golden said he did not know if the “Golden Rule” is aimed at him. But the former lawmaker was highly critical of the bill and said Gounardes should be concentrating his efforts elsewhere.
“I’m not beating him up. But there are more things to get done in state government today than this bill,” he told this newspaper.
Lawmakers should be concentrating on job creation and economic development, according to Golden. “We just lost 25,000 jobs with Amazon pulling out. It’s so sad, what’s happening to our city. Businesses are moving out. Our elected officials should put their focus on helping people on the ground,” he said.