Wednesday, January 16, 2013

JJOKE Hides Source of Funding data

JJOKE Hides Source of Funding data


January 16, 2013, one day after the vaunted source of funding disclosures were required to be filed by the states numerous well funded and sometimes shadowy advocacy groups.


Everyone had to file their client semiannual report by the 15th.


If they met the $50k/ 3% threshold set in statute they had to report to JJOKE the source of their funding.


JJOKE has known of the requirement for the entire year of their existence.


Ellen “eBay” Biben has known of the requirement for her entire tenure heading the JOKE.


There have been numerous hearings held by the JOKE on the subject.


The public has had a chance to comment on the issue.


Regulations have been drafted and debated at JOKE meetings.


Revised Regulations have been drafted and debated at JOKE meetings.


JOKE commissioners have commented at the meetings and inquired about the issue (some intelligent and some not).


Emergency Regulations have been drafted and debated at JOKE meetings.


Emergency Regulations have been passed at JOKE meetings.


JJOKE held an educational meeting for the lobbying community (JJOKE’s education coordinator missed it as she was sick . . . again) where JOKE lawyers explained the process for source of funding disclosure.


The JOKE website has on its front page instructions about the source of funding regulations.


The JOKE website has FAQs about source of funding (they are inaccurate and were never approved by the commissioners but they are there)


So as I look at a clean blanket of snow in Albany this am I think how wonderful it will be to go to the JOKE website from the comfort of my office computer and find out who provided the funding for . . . take your pick of controversial issues.


But NOOOOOOO that information is not available to the public.


How is this possible you ask?


Was Ravi Batra successful in his lawsuit against the JOKE?  Nope he never brought one


Did some association get a TRO on the grounds that the regulations were arbitrary and capricious?  Nope I’m not aware of anyone putting up a fight about the statute or the regulations.


Did every client simply ignore the law?  No in fact from what I saw at the JOKE offices this week it’s the exact opposite there are boxes and boxes of paper client semiannual forms that have been filed with source of funding disclosure.


So who is responsible for the fact that the public can’t access this data?


Well as always it’s a self inflicted wound.


JJOKE leadership didn’t consider the why and the how of source of funding disclosure.


Why did this requirement come about?


I think it’s obvious that the governor and the legislature intended the information related to groups source of funding to be disclosed to the public, in short to promote transparency.  But don’t take my word for it ask the stars of ethics reform what they think:


“What we need to do here is maximize disclosure” Ellen Biben


“JCOPE should generally seek to promote transparency of those who fund lobbying activity” Dick Dadey Citizens Union


“The public has an interest in the disclosure of all major entities that may be involved in a layered organizational structure. Common Cause/NY urges the Commission to draft rules which will provide information regarding the original source of funding”.  Susan Lerner Common Cause


“we believe that they play a very important role in informing the public” Barbara Bartoletti League of Women Voters


“provide for unprecedented disclosure in an area where no such disclosure has been required before.” John Milgram


So the why is clear let’s turn to the how?


They had a year to prepare; the JOKE has an electronic filing system so they must have added a data line for the source of funding disclosure right?


Electronic filing would have allowed for real time disclosure in a format that would allow the public a searchable database, so why can’t you see these disclosures today?


Because JJOKE required clients who wanted to list their source of funding to file on paper pdf forms.




That’s right in 2013 clients were using pen and paper to report these disclosures maybe JJOKE should have required quill and ink or rock carvings.


What’s the end result  it will be months and months before commission staff get done with the data input and that’s if everyone including the lawyers sit at a computer amid stacks of forms inputting the data.


On my first day at the old lobby commission I wandered around the office and saw a small cubbyhole with paper forms stacked to the ceiling and an attractive young women sitting in front of an old desktop computer pecking away.  I asked her what she was doing and I was told she was inputting forms she did it 7 hours a day 5 days a week 50 weeks a year.


She was way too smart to waste time with data input.


When they finally abolished my agency she was in charge of an IT staff and a state of the art electronic filing system that allowed New York’s lobbyists to file online and made those filings available in real time.


She is still in charge of the IT department at the JOKE but I’m betting she remembers those stacks of paper too.


So who is to blame for JJOKE returning to the dark ages?


Comeon Mr. Dadey, Ms. Lerner, Ms. Bartoletti tell us how that source of funding disclosure is working out.


Ellen care to take responsibility for the JOKE?


How about you Milgram?  Oh that’s right your busy fulfilling that FOIL request I made this morning for the source of funding disclosures.


And for my friends in the media if you can pry yourself away from the debate about how much safer we are because I can’t buy a semi auto with a bayonet mount AND a grenade launcher ask JJOKE who funded the NRA or who funded the anti fracking group Artists against Fracking or who funded the campaign finance reform group New York Leadership for Accountable Government.  Because you don’t know and they will not tell you without a FOIL request and a long wait.


And the JJOKE commissioners that have any self respect and intelligence, Pat Bulgaro, George Weissman, Mitra Hormozi, Ellen Yaroshefsky, Gary Lavine, Marvin Jacob should immediately get on the phone to Biben and ask why.

And if you do not believe the answer think about this  while we all wait for the data  Ellen has it and much like the investigations at JJOKE if Ellen has it its a safe bet that Linda Lacewell has it and if Linda Lace well has  ityou can be sure Larry Schwartz has it which means you might not know who is funding those groups critical of the governor but he does.

Maybe Ellen "eBay" Biben is not incompetent afterall.

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