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State legislators' ties to nonprofit groups prove fertile ground for corruption  

State Integrity Investigation

New York scandals reveal unsavory pattern of 'quid pro quo' links between lawmakers and 'charities'

By Nicholas Kusnetz, 
6:00 am, June 12, 2013 Updated: 12:19 pm, May 19, 2014

About this story


  • State lawmakers have used a variety of legislative tools to steer millions in government money to nonprofit groups with whom they’re closely affiliated
  • Such relationships are at the root of scandals that have ensnared at least eight state legislators in New York
  • State ethics bodies consider such relationships a conflict of interest only if an official derives direct financial benefit
  • An increasing number of legislators are also asking corporations to donate to favored nonprofit groups
  • Bills limiting lawmakers’ ability to steer public funds to specific nonprofit groups have been defeated, as have measures requiring them to disclose close ties to nonprofits  Type your paragraph here.

When investigators examined the operations of a sprawling New York social service organization, what they uncovered was deeply troubling. Board members of theRidgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council had almost no experience in nonprofit management. Several couldn’t name any of the group’s programs. Two of them could not identify the executive director, who in turn told investigators she was unaware of a fraudulent scheme carried out under her watch: Employees had squandered or stolen most of an $80,000 city grant.

As a result of that July 2010 report by New York City’s Department of Investigation, both the city and state quickly pulled the plug, suspending the organization’s grants, which provide practically all of its funding. But just as quick, the Brooklyn-based group won back it’s government support on the condition that it enact corrective measures, and today, the council has active grants from the city and the state totaling more than $50 million. Maybe that’s because the organization provides critical services, such as senior care and affordable housing, as a city spokeswoman said when funding was restored. But the council may also be thriving because its founder, Vito Lopez, was for years one of New York’s most powerful politicians — a state legislator whospent much of his career channeling that power through Ridgewood Bushwick.


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