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Disclosure of Outside Income – Statement by New York City Bar Association President Debra L. Raskin

In this political climate, it is particularly important that the public have a high level of trust in its elected officials. The public should know that its elected officials are in government to work in the public interest, not to take care of their own interests. One key element of establishing public trust is disclosure of outside income.

In 2010, the New York City Bar Association issued a report [http://bit.ly/1FsJZYA] saying New York’s lawmakers should be required to disclose the sources and amounts of their outside income—specifically including the identity of paying clients—and to provide a description of the services rendered. The report concluded that there is no basis for excluding lawyer-legislators from the public scrutiny to which legislators should be held and that an independent system could be developed so that claims of attorney-client privilege could be vetted in those limited circumstances where the public’s interest in disclosure is outweighed by a client’s interest in secrecy.

The Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011 took the first steps in this direction, by establishing a limited regime for lawmakers’ disclosing their clients. However, that level of disclosure has been inadequate, and does not provide the opportunity for scrutiny that the public deserves. The proposal in the Executive Budget legislation would establish the level of disclosure of outside income contemplated in the City Bar’s 2010 report, and we applaud the Governor for highlighting the importance of this issue, and welcome the Assembly’s agreement. We urge the Legislature to adopt the outside income disclosure provisions proposal in full, to demonstrate the Legislature’s commitment to bolstering public confidence in our State’s government.

Please see a fuller statement released by the City Bar today addressing the Budget disclosure proposals and other ethics issues: http://bit.ly/1FC6SZp