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December 18, 2015

Risa Sugarman, Esq.


Chief Enforcement Counsel
Division of Election Law Enforcement
New York State Board of Elections
40 North Pearl Street, Ste. 5
Albany, NY 12207-2729
Re:

$1.14 Million in Over-Contributions to the SRCC

Dear Ms. Sugarman:


I write to bring your attention to a disturbing and blatant misuse of taxpayer money to
make dramatic over-contributions to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee (SRCC) in
gross excess of allowable limits.
On October 9, 2015, several media outlets reported that former New York State Senate
Republican Majority Leader Joe Bruno was closing out his campaign and his legal defense
funds, donating the bulk of the $1.5 million that is left to the Senate Republican Campaign
Committee.1 Purportedly, Mr. Bruno controlled two or more committees registered with the
State Board of Elections (BOE), and would be contributing an aggregate of $1.4-$1.5 million
to the SRCC from these accounts.2 It is important to note that the vast majority of these funds
were obtained from public monies given to these committees to cover legal defense costs
associated with former Senator Brunos criminal defense.3

Bruno closing out campaign, legal funds, giving most to GOP, Albany Times Union, October 9, 2015, Rick Karlin.
Bruno donates $1.4 million to Senate Republican campaign panel, The Buffalo News, October 9, 2015, Tom
Precious.
3
The Committee to Re-Elect Senator Bruno (A465) has not filed a disclosure report with the BOE since July 2015.
As part of the July 2015 filing, the committee disclosed receiving a total of $1.53 million from a law firm that
represented Mr. Bruno in legal proceedings, explaining the receipt as Wire Transfer Of Reimbursement Received
From New York State For Legal Fees Paid Relating To Senator Bruno's Trial.
2

At the time, the information was reported based on an announcement made by a


spokesperson for Mr. Bruno which noted that Senator Brunos committee, The Committee to
Re-Elect Senator Bruno, a political action committee he established, Creating NY Jobs Now, and
a legal defense fund established to support him . . . will be closed down, and the funds would be
distributed. Since then, however, the SRCC and Creating NY Jobs Now (CNYJN) have filed
disclosure reports with the BOE that provide more specific details about the transactions between
the SRCC, CNYJN, and the committee initially established to promote then-Senator Brunos
reelection efforts. Based on these filings, it is evident that Mr. Bruno used political committees
he controlled to make campaign contributions to the SRCC far in excess of the permitted
party/constituted committee contribution limit of $109,600. In fact, it appears that if the
donations are appropriately treated as contributions, the Committee to Re-Elect Senator Bruno
will have made nearly $1.03 million in contributions to the SRCC during calendar year 2015,
and also, in an attempt to further evade contribution limits, moved $500,000 to CNYJN with the
intent of then contributing an additional $109,600 to the SRCC.
As you know, the New York State Election Law broadly defines contribution to
include any gift, subscription, outstanding loan (to the extent . . . [that such loan is not repaid by
the date of the election]), advance, or deposit of money or any other thing of value, made in
connection with the nomination for election, or election, of any candidate, or made to promote
the success or defeat of a political party or principle, or of any ballot proposal.4 Furthermore,
[a]ny payment made in support of a candidates nomination or election, including but not
limited to compensation for the personal services of any individual which are rendered in
connection with a candidates election or nomination without charge, will be deemed a
contribution, unless such service was provided by a person or political committee independent
of the candidate or his agents or authorized political committees.5 Finally, a contribution
includes any funds received by a political committee from another political committee to the
extent such funds do not constitute a transfer.6 Based on the foregoing, funds given by one
political committee to a party or constituted committee shall be treated as a contribution
subject to limitation, unless the funds given to the party or constituted committee is a transfer.
Transfer is narrowly defined as any exchange of funds or any thing of value between
political committees authorized by the same candidate and taking part solely in his campaign, or
any exchange of funds between a party or constituted committee and a candidate or any of his
authorized political committees.7 The Election Law is very limiting in what types of
transactions may be treated as transfers, and provides for only two types. The BOE uses the
illustration of the NYS Republican State Committee [providing funds] to Friends of Smith, or
vice versa, as an example of a Type 1 Transfer.8 The BOE has described a Type 2 Transfer
as when Friends of Vincent Smith moves money to Citizens for Vincent Smith.9 Money moved
between two candidate committees that were not authorized by the same person, however, is not
4

N.Y. ELEC. LAW 14-100(9)(1).


N.Y. ELEC. LAW 14-100(9)(3).
6
N.Y. ELEC. LAW 14-100(9)(2) (emphasis added).
7
N.Y. Elec. Law 14-100(10) (emphasis added).
8
NEW YORK STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS 2015 CAMPAIGN FINANCE HANDBOOK, p. 130; see also N.Y. ELEC. LAW
14-114(3).
9
Id.
5

a transfer and would be subject to all candidate contribution limitations.10 Thus, in order to
properly determine whether two entities may engage in a transfer, one must understand whether
the entities at issue are committees authorized by a candidate for public office, political
committees, party committees, or constituted committees.
The current fact pattern involves the SRCC, CNYJN, and the Committee to Re-Elect
Senator Bruno. The SRCC is a party committee, provided for in the rules of the New York State
Republican Committee a constituted committee of the New York State Republican Party.
Thus, the SRCC may accept transfers from SRCC candidates or committees authorized by SRCC
candidates. CNYJN is neither a committee authorized by a candidate, nor a party or constituted
committee. As such, it is clear that the law does not allow it to engage in transfers. The third
relevant entity involved in these transactions is the Committee to Re-Elect Senator Bruno.
Although it would appear from the name of this entity, and the fact that it was initially formed as
a candidate committee, that it would be entitled to receive and make transfers of the type at issue
here, the relevant Election Law provision indicates that it cannot be treated as an entity that may
engage in transfers.
The purpose of the Election Law transfer provision is to enable candidates actively
supported by a given party to provide funds to the party to spend on the candidates election, or
to invest in that partys continued efforts for other similarly situated candidates. It would be
inappropriate, however, to let committees controlled by individuals who are not candidates, and
have not recently served as candidates, for a political office to be able to make unlimited
transfers to a party. Where the committee is controlled by an individual who can no longer be
deemed a candidate, the committee must be subject to contribution limits like any other donor.
It is inconceivable that the law contemplated allowing for this kind of political activity.
Over the years, the press has highlighted the fact that so-called ghost committees campaign
accounts of either deceased or long-retired politicians continue to make contributions to other
candidates for public office. While committees affiliated with deceased or retired politicians may
make contributions, it cannot possibly be permissible for these ghost committees to make
unlimited transfers in order to avoid any campaign contribution limits whatsoever.
In the last few months, however, two committees controlled by Mr. Bruno made
contributions to the SRCC totaling approximately $1.14 million. The funds from the Committee
to Re-Elect Senator Bruno were classified by the SRCC on its November 2015 disclosure filing
as a $1.03 million transfer. Mr. Bruno, however, has not been a candidate for office in nearly a
decade. Indeed, not only has Mr. Bruno not campaigned for any public office in almost ten
years, he also expressly indicated that he has no intention of ever again being a candidate for any
elected position.11 Thus, despite the original purpose of the Committee to Re-Elect Senator
Bruno, it cannot be viewed as a candidate[s] . . . authorized political committee as is required
by Election Law 14-100(10). In fact, the only inference that can be made from the recent
disclosure filings is that the SRCC and Mr. Bruno conspired to use an otherwise inactive
10

See Feldman v. Pataki, 616 Misc. 2d 176 (Kings County 1994) (finding that funds moved from a committee
deemed to be authorized by Candidate A to a committee explicitly authorized by Candidate B was a contribution
and not a transfer).
11
Bruno closing out campaign, legal funds, giving most to GOP, Albany Times Union, October 9, 2015, Rick Karlin.

committee to collect public funds provided to cover criminal defense costs incurred by Mr.
Bruno, and then contribute this taxpayer money to the SRCC for the benefit of Republican
candidates for the State Senate.
For all of the foregoing reasons, I respectfully request that you, in your capacity as Chief
Enforcement Counsel, investigate the campaign finance activities of the Senate Republican
Campaign Committee, the Committee to Re-Elect Senator Bruno, and Creating NY Jobs Now, to
determine whether SRCC conspired with Mr. Bruno to use his political committees to evade and
exceed contribution limits, and whether SRCC must divest itself of the contributions that grossly
exceeded all legal limits.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Michael Gianaris

NEW YORK STATE DEMOCRATIC SENATE CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE


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