Gov. Kathy Hochul is proving herself a true heir to scandal-ousted Andrew Cuomo with her truly Cuomo-esque dark money shenanigans.
A quick recap: The vast majority of LLC (limited-liability corporation) donors to her campaign — around 130 — have been blatantly flouting a 2019 law demanding proper attribution of LLC donations to the individuals responsible.
Now, per new reporting from The City, we learn that late last year, five LLCs — all linked to liquor mega-distributor Southern Glazer’s — on the same day made five identical contributions of $5,000 to Hochul’s campaign.
That same 2019 law set a strict $5,000 cap on LLC giving across all candidates in New York state. This seems a clear effort to end-run that cap.
No, the money isn’t huge. But that’s not the point. There is truly ugly history here.
Cuomo vowed in his 2010 campaign to end New York’s LLC loophole for political giving. Instead, he ended up benefiting from it hugely. Now that 2019 law, which he signed, is being treated like so much waste paper.
The rot is widespread. The same data show that in 2021, nine out of 10 LLCs that made contributions failed to file the legally required forms reporting their owners.
The booze business is big in New York, so no shock Southern Glazer’s shows up as a scofflaw. No shock also that many real-estate developers appear, too. (They need to buy influence in Albany to get their projects off the ground.)
Two Trees KG LLC — which shares an address with the eponymous luxury developer — was the single biggest LLC donor in New York in 2021: It gave $5,000 each to Hochul, Cuomo, Attorney General Letitia James, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and Queens DA Melinda Katz.
Plus, four LLCs linked to Two Trees (but not the same as its main donating LLC) each gave Hochul $5,000.
And that’s just one powerful company.
The solution seems clear to us. Tweak the 2019 law to provide for greater enforcement. Shift the legal onus around reporting from the donors (where it currently is) to the recipients. Put Hochul et al. on the hook for these shenanigans.
Also: Reform laws and regulations around real-estate development. The more complicated they are, the more pressure for developers to try to buy their way around them.
Hochul vowed to bring transparency to Albany. She needs to let the sunlight shine on her dark money moves — now — and get behind moves to reform both the disclosure laws and the web of restrictions that makes buying influence so attractive.
Otherwise, she risks looking even more like her unsavory predecessor.