Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro held up a 23-page document Thursday at a podium in front of Buffalo's federal courthouse, eager to share what he called "perhaps the most sweeping and fundamental ethics reforms in the history of the state of New York."
But he began with a story about his very early days as a politician.
Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive, started his career as the youngest mayor in the country, a 19-year-old who was elected mayor the Hudson River Village of Tivoli. A few months into service, two constituents, Vincent and Daisy Post, called him to their house.
"These are senior citizens, 65, 66 years old who didn't have any means to speak of, and they handed me a check for $25 and said, 'Put this toward your campaign,' " Molinaro recalled. "I will never forget that moment. Because these were individuals who didn't have the money to donate, and believed in a person, believed that I could provide the change that they wanted in their hometown.
"I think there are too many people in Albany, and I think that this governor especially, have forgotten that the decisions we make as elected officials have profound impacts on the individual lives of New Yorkers, and that there are families, countless families, like Vince and Daisy who don't have the money to hand it over to a corrupted government and elected officials who think public service is about them."
Thus began the latest attack by Molinaro on incumbent Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, many of which have come in Buffalo. Molinaro spoke in front of the U.S. District Courthouse downtown and during his remarks referred to the Buffalo Billion bid-rigging trial being held in New York.
Late Thursday, the Cuomo campaign issued a statement in response to Molinaro’s claims: “Trump mini-me Marc Molinaro – who has an ‘A’ rating from the NRA and is the NY GOP’s handpicked anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ candidate – is desperately trying to deflect from the sad state of his campaign. The governor has fought to restore transparency and accountability in government and we welcome Molinaro’s newfound enthusiasm for this effort.”
Molinaro is dubbing his reform package the "2019 Albany Accountability Act." It includes his plans for a number of measures, including term limits, increased transparency, the banning of political contributions from individuals and entities pursuing government contracts, independent oversight of Albany and making sexual harassment an ethics violation.
"With all due respect to a governor who came into office promising a new day, Andrew Cuomo is easily the worst offender of this culture of corruption in a century," said Molinaro. "The 2019 Albany Accountability Act is the cleansing agent New Yorkers need to wipe clean state government. The people of New York had have enough, and it's time they get the reforms they deserve."
— Keith McShea (@KeithMcSheaBNG) July 12, 2018
Molinaro said the 23 pages represented the reasons he entered the race for governor.
"This is fundamentally what I believe in, it is what I have tried to attempt to do every day of my life in public service," he said. "And having the authority as Governor to bring these reforms about is so critical and it's so much about why I wanted to run."
Molinaro lists five goals in his plan, which he abbreviated with the term "Triple-A," and which he said he would enact on his first day in office:
- Creating a Government "of the People, by the People, and for the People"
- Opening the Doors of Government and Providing Real Transparency
- Taking Big Money Out of Politics
- Holding Politicians Accountable and Providing for Independent Oversight
- Rethinking and Rightsizing our Economic Development Programs
Regarding the economic development programs, Molinaro spoke of television ads shown out of state that use incentives to try to lure companies to New York via large tax incentives.
"If you come to New York, we'll wipe clean your burden of taxation, we won't charge you anything … just come here," Molinaro said. "How insulting is that, to people who struggle every single day? I wonder what Vince and Daisy Post would actually think about that. It's like saying to a friend from out of state, if you move here, you don't have to pay property taxes anymore. Yet you've been struggling. It's insulting, it's corrupted and it's wrong."
The extensive plans are a combination of Molinaro's own ideas, legislative concepts by others (his report credits Democratic state Sen. Liz Kruger of Manhattan sponsoring a bill to create a Unified Economic Development Budget), some from "good government groups all across the state of New York" and even Cuomo himself (including closing a limited liability loophole for political contributions and convening a Moreland Commission to investigate public corruption, which Cuomo did before disbanding it).
"Some of this even came from Andrew Cuomo, who clearly had no commitment to having them happen," said Molinaro.
"The governor … could have made these reforms happen. Some of these reforms have been around for decades. … But he has allowed for this culture of corruption to continue because it benefits him politically. Well the time is up. He's had seven years to accomplish this; he's made it clear that he's more interested in emboldening the culture and accepting the benefits of a system rigged against taxpayers.
"These are all great ideas. … I believe packaging it, presenting it to the Legislature and getting a vote up or down is so necessary to returning the power of state government to the people of the state of New York."
Here's Molinaro's complete document outlining the Albany Accountability Act: Albany-Accountability-Act-Final