Cites Conflict of Interest Challenge to the Tune of $125K
In the past week, Senator Neil Breslin has been the subject of widespread scorn and scrutiny thanks to heavy play of this embarassing story. It revealed that Breslin, now Chairman and longtime ranking member of the Seante Insurance Committee, did not know what was in his own bill.
Yesterday, Luke Martland took full advantage of the recent scrutiny and held a press conference. Since the root cause of fiasco's like this is the influence of lobbyist money on both legislators and of lobbyists being the real writers of legislation, Martland has called on Breslin to return $125,000 in campaign funds, saying this money presents a conflict of interest to any Senator.
The story once again made broadcast headlines. For the record, CBS6 is still reminding folks of Breslin's "huh, wha?" folly in it's promotional spots. This video comes care of competitor WNYT, and other stations are also picking up the storyline. This is a huge change for the district: two years ago when Breslin faced his first primary challenge, nothing was ever braodcast on the race; this year, I have to hop between channels!
Here's the news coverage:
The full uncut Martland statement is below the fold.
(Cross-posted on The Albany Project)
Martland Challenges Breslin to Return Insurance Contributions
State Senate Candidate Luke Martland Challenges Incumbent Neil Breslin to Return His Insurance Company Campaign Contributions
Cites Conflict of Interest for Senate Insurance Committee Chairman Breslin
(August 23, 2010. Albany) – State Senate candidate Luke Martland today called on 14-year incumbent Neil Breslin to return the more than $125,000 in campaign contributions he has accepted in the last 18 months while serving as chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee.
“As chairman of the State Senate Insurance Committee, Neil Breslin has accepted more than $125,000 in campaign contributions from the very same companies that his committee controls legislation over,” said Martland. “He should return all of those contributions so that there is no possible conflict of interest or appearance of improper influence.”
“It’s simple,” said Martland, “if you are in charge of passing legislation that will determine how much an industry makes in profit, you should not be accepting contributions from that industry.”
Breslin accepted more than $125,000 in campaign contributions from Aetna, Empire Health, CDPHP, Met Life, New York Life, Empire Dental and other insurance companies from January 2009 to June 2010 according to the New York State Board of Elections.
CBS6 Albany broadcast a series of stories beginning on August 18, which found that Neil Breslin did not know the contents of a prior approval insurance bill he sponsored and touted.
“We now know that Breslin, the Chair of the Insurance Committee, does not understand his own bills,” said Martland. “Legislation like the prior approval bill that Breslin did not understand have a huge impact on insurance company profits. If Neil Breslin does not understand these bills, who does? Who produces these bills? Who influences their content? Even if it is currently legal under New York’s “Swiss cheese” campaign laws to accept money from the same companies you oversee, it is unethical and Neil Breslin should return these contributions so there is no appearance that insurance companies are buying access or influence.”
Martland has already shown leadership on ethics issues. In May, Martland released his own tax and salary records and called on Breslin to release his tax records, law firm salary and client list. Breslin refused.
Luke Martland was raised in Albany, graduated from Albany High School and Princeton University and worked his way through Brooklyn Law School. He has served as an Assistant District Attorney and Assistant Attorney General in the New York State Attorney General’s office. He also ran the State’s sex offender registry at the Division of Criminal Justice Services in Albany.
Luke Martland’s stand on issues can be found at www.lukemartlandsenate.com.
Luke Martland is also on Facebook and Twitter.
Emphasis mine - SP
I find the bolded statements by Luke Martland extrememly hard to disagree with. The only thing I might add is that Breslin has accepted far in excess of $125,000 from the insurance and banking industry since he's been in the Senate. The Martland campaign might have also added the American Insurance Group, (aka AIG) to the list of companies Sen. Breslin has been in bed with, considering that this company played such a devastating and integral role in the recent financial meltdown.
It turns out that a solid media frame has evolved around this race that has completely turned that tables. Now instead of Luke Martalnd looking like an upstart challenger, Neil Breslin is looking more the defensive old-timer. And frankly, Breslin is making it worse for himself by failing to respond to the charges in story after story. To my knowledge, he still hasn't agreed to publicly debate Luke Martalnd under the watchful of the League of Women Voters, and that challenge was made weeks ago.
What does all this mean for a guy like me who's wanted change in this Senate district for some time?
Actually, it means that change has arrived. Even if Luke Martland's efforts don't get him into the Senate, the biggest problem in this district has been the combination of an unaccountable politician and an unaccountable press. In light of these new media events, I can say that we've finally got some a decent showing of accountability in the Capital Region press corps, and with that accountable politicians will follow. Whether that means we get a change of Senators or if it means a current Senator changes his ways, that is still the improvement I've been looking for all along.
Therefore, continued blogging on this race is getting more and more enjoyable. Stay tuned...my interviews with both candidates have been delayed a week, but are still forthcoming, and nowadays you never know what will make the airwaves!