Unions Drop $200K for Passage of Martin Act

October 21, 2010
Staff contact: Ken Pokalsky

I thought you would be interested in the following article from City Hall News that cites Democrat Majority Senators (Aubertine, Foley and Valesky) receiving considerable financial support from organized labor. The support from organized labor is for passage of the Taxpayer Protection Act. (Martin Act) 

Thursday, October 21,2010

Unions Drop $200K On Ads In Support Of Vulnerable Senate Dems
By Laura Nahmias


With less than two weeks left in the election, three vulnerable state senators—Brian Foley, Darrel Aubertine and David Valesky—are receiving a much-needed boost from several of the state’s largest unions in the form of a $200,000 independent ad buy.

Union officials said the senators are essential to union hopes for passage of the Taxpayer Protection Act, a bill proposed by former primary rivals Assembly Member Richard Brodsky and State Sen. Eric Schneiderman. The bill would expand the Martin Act – giving pensioners who lost billions in the financial meltdown recourse to sue some of the state’s largest financial firms to recoup their losses.

Unions who have contributed to the independent expenditure include SEIU 1199, Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 773, and CWA 1180, according to Scott Levenson, president of the Advance Group, the firm putting the ads together.

The expenditure will go toward production at least three television ads that will air on News12 and local cable stations for the next two weeks, Levenson said. The first ad featuring Foley, a Suffolk County Democrat, will air Friday. The 30-second spot directs voters not to support Foley’s GOP rival, Lee Zeldin.

The ads will air in “districts where our message will resonate,” Levenson said of the choice to peg the bill’s chances to these three senators. “If a Republican majority gets into power in Albany, any chance of real financial area reform or Martin act reform is dead. We’re trying to tie Democratic senators to real fiscal reform.”

The Martin Act is an early 20th century law that gives broad powers to the state’s attorney general to prosecute fraud, famously used by Eliot Spitzer to rein in the excesses of Wall Street.

The Taxpayer Protection Act would expand the Martin Act’s power by allowing institutional investment groups of 500 or more people to sue for financial wrongdoing up to six years after the fact. Under current state law, only the AG has the power to sue investment firms.

If passed, the act would give New York one of the most extensive fraud protection laws of any state in the country. Forty-eight other states currently have laws allowing institutional investors to sue for losses due to fraud.

New York City institutional investors lost 25 percent of the value of their pensions from March 2007 to March of 2009, a loss of $11 billion, according to Arthur Chileotes, president of the Communication Workers of America Local 1180. The state pension fund, which was worth $150.6 billion in 2007, lost $45.7 billion by 2009.

“When you combine all the funds, you’re talking about over $100 billion lost,” said Chileotes. “We’re talking about simple justice here.”

The senators referenced in the ads are not just endangered Democrats, Chileotes said.
“Eric Schneiderman pointed them out as being people who would be willing to support his bill,” he said. “We know the whole issue is to keep the Democratic majority in the State Senate. If we’re able to keep the majority then we can engage in a dialogue with the State Senators – with the Republicans the wall was up.”