Pushing For Changes To Disclosure, Batra Threatens Resignation
In a lengthy letter explaining his opposition to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics’ guidelines for the dislcosure of contributors to lobbying organizations, Ravi Batra, a controversial and colorful commissioner on the newly created watchdog panel, says he’s resigning unless changes are made.
In the letter, Batra provides a self-described “nuanced” explanation for what he believes are weak rules for lobbyists that do not follow provisions the ethics overhaul law that took effect June 1.
“I am uncertain that my efforts at JCOPE to support Gov. Cuomo’s prized law is at all welcome. In any event, my continued service on JCOPE is conditioned upon its necessary independence and willingness to lawfully effectuate the law, otherwise, consistent with my twin Becket and Burke moral imperatives, I will tender my resignation and create a vacancy, which can then be filled by one more worthy to join the already serving honorable commissioners.”
The full letter from Batra is below.
Batra says the look-back period for the disclosure rules should have gone to at least June 1, the day the disclosure went into effect, rather than July 1, as the rules JCOPE adopted require.
The state’s most expensive lobbying campaign, the Committee to Save New York, a coalition of business interests and private-sector unions aligned with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has so far refused to release its donor list, having raised more than $17 million from 74 individual contributors.
Batra says the narrow look-back period and delay in reporting will essentially have the “… net effect of a delayed 6-month stealthy cloaking worthy of a Klingon warship in Star Trek.”
While praising Cuomo, he says the ethics panel needs to have broader independence.
That I am a fan of Gov. Cuomo and wish him every success to make New York the proud Empire state compels me to effectuate, to the best of my ability and despite fatigue, the core covenant of PIRA to all New Yorkers: that an uncontrolled and independent JCOPE will honestly effectuate PIRA and thereby restore public confidence in government. There is no better way to achieve that than with greater disclosure, or greater disinfectant sunshine, as Justice Louis Brandeis would say. Indeed, the enabling legislation was all about more disclosure, not less, or worse, none at all. Yet, yesterday, JCOPE acted, with authority unknown to the law, to cloak a period of time that PIRA required to be disclosed!
Batra’s nomination by Senate Minority Leader John Sampson to the panel was controversial from the beginning.
He has ties to Sampson’s law firm, where the Brooklyn lawmaker is “of counsel” and to jailed former political boss Clarence Norman. He was perhaps best known in Albany political circles for having defended then-Sen. Ada Smith in her assault case.
At the first meeting of JCOPE, Batra publicly announced he was donating money to a charity. At another meeting in June, Batra was taken away in an ambulance at the end after saying he was feeling faint. He was later released from Albany Medical Center the same day.
And while he followed guidelines not to speak on the record to the press, Batra was perhaps the only outspoken commissioner at JCOPE meetings, usually taking lines of questioing that made Board Chairwoman Janet DiFiore clearly nervous.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Nick Reisman on August 2, 2012 at 12:16 pm, and is filed under Ethics. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|