Isn’t it great to see Democrats and Republicans working together?

There is all kinds of talk in the political world about the lack of bi-partisanship, the parties always fighting. And along comes a great local example of bi-partisanship. I’m not talking about the county executive working out some budget issues with members of the Republican legislative caucus. I’m writing about the cooperative efforts of Steve Casey and Chris Grant.

The Buffalo News today has a detailed story about how Casey and Grant collaborated on various campaign efforts. Nice diagram too.

The News suggests that not all of the financial reports of the WNY Progressive Caucus were as detailed as they needed to be about who was actually getting paid for the work they did. Perhaps the bi-partisanship was embarrassing.

The other major bit of news in the story was the large amounts of money that have been paid to Messrs. Grant and Casey. We trust that they reported and paid all the resulting income taxes. But when you operate in the public sector there are some responsibilities that go with the public positions. So consider these information points and questions as Pigeongate proceeds:

  • Public officials in New York State are required to file disclosure statements about their outside income, investments, etc. to show that there has been no unethical behavior or conflicts of interest.
  • Steve Casey was a public official until he resigned from his deputy mayor position in City Hall in 2014. Were his disclosure statements up-to-date, and did they include information about his ownership and income from LSA Strategies?
  • Federal officials are also required to file financial disclosure statements in various places. Principal staff of members of the House of Representatives, including those making more than $121,956 per year, must periodically file various financial disclosures. At the minimum, those statements must be filed annually on May 15. The statements are filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Here is the House of Representatives Committee on Ethics Guide for Financial Disclosures on reportable income:
    • You are required to disclose the following payments to you if they aggregated to $200 or more from a single source in the reporting period:
    • Earned income from employment outside the House; and
    • Honoraria. For new Members and employees, candidates, principal assistants and all filers’ spouses.
    • Earned income, reportable on Schedule C, is generally income the filer receives resulting from “the fruit of  their labor.”
  • Chris Grant has been employed by the House of Representatives since the beginning of 2013. His annual salary has been $160,000, placing him, therefore, in the category of someone required to file annual financial statements by every May 15.
  • The Clerk of the House makes available financial disclosures of House members and candidates. But for staff financial reports the House rules say: “anyone wishing to review a report on file with the Clerk must provide his or her name, occupation, and address; the name of any other person or entity on whose behalf the information is sought; and a statement that he or she is aware of the prohibitions on use of the information.”
  • As I wrote in a May 29th post, there is a private organization that has been able to secure some of these staff filings. LegiStorm has a database of this information, and for a not-too-small price, will make it available to a subscriber.
  • A May 28th review of Chris Grant’s filings on the LegiStorm site indicates that he filed a disclosure for being a new House employee in 2013, as well as some stock purchases in 2013 and again in 2014.
  • The May 28th review of LegiStorm information did not indicate that Grant filed required annual financial disclosures for 2013 (by May 15, 2014), or for 2014 (by May 15, 2015). Since LegiStorm is an unofficial source of this public information, we cannot fairly conclude whether or not Grant actually complied with the House Ethics requirements, or if he did, what they reported about his outside income.
  • Finally, one more relevant issue, considering the large dollar amount of business that Grant’s Herd Solutions has apparently done, according to the News. Here is what the House of Representative Committee on Ethics Guide for Financial Disclosures says about outside income:
    • Income Cap. The outside earned income of Members, officers, and employees paid at or above the “senior staff ‘ rate ($120,749 in 2014 and $121,956 in 2015) for more than 90 days in a calendar year is subject to an annual earned income limit of 15 percent of the Executive Level II salary. For calendar year 2014, the outside earned income cap for Members and senior staff is $26,955 (for 2015 the cap is $27,255).