Update September 24: The New York Times highlighted the Lawmakers List in an editorial calling for more detailed disclosure of lawmakers’ business dealings. When the state ethics commission released handwritten forms, “It took two public interest groups, Common Cause/NY and New York Public Interest Research Group; a newspaper, The New York World at Columbia University; and two interns working for two weeks to make sense of it all. What they found merely whets the appetite for even greater disclosure.”
The everyday financial lives of the 212 members of the state Senate and Assembly have largely been a mystery — until now.
If New Yorkers have heard anything about their state legislators’ finances, it’s been unsavory, tantalizing glimpses of business dealings revealed through wiretaps and indictments. Now, under a new state ethics law, lawmakers must disclose details about their outside earnings and total wealth. In July, for the first time, the forms were posted on the web, and include eye-opening specifics about members’ finances and business affiliations.
New York state lawmakers’ official salary is $79,500, for a part-time job. But including all other sources of income, New York’s lawmakers together with their spouses earned, on average, between $178,140 and $237,941 in 2012, according to an analysis by the New York Public Interest Research Group and Common Cause–New York. The lawmakers themselves earned, on average, more than $63,000 from sources outside the legislature last year.
The median New York household income is $56,951.
To analyze the data packed in the handwritten disclosure forms, The New York World, NYPIRG and Common Cause–New York created a database showing the income, assets and debts of each member and his or her spouse, including the sources of each. Every member indicated a range of dollar values for each source of income or assets disclosed.
Assembly Republicans are the highest-earning caucus, with the average member pulling in between $112,793 and $153,862 from outside sources during 2012. Senate Republicans’ average incomes were second highest, followed by Senate Democrats, Assembly Democrats and the Independent Democratic Conference, the NYPIRG/Common Cause analysis shows.
The lawmaker with the greatest outside income last year was Assemblymember Jane Corwin, a Republican who reported earnings as high as $1.8 million from a sizable portfolio of stocks and bonds, followed by Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who earned up to $920,000 between his law firm, investment dividends and a sale of stock.
GOP Assemblymember Steven Hawley earned up to $590,000, mostly from insurance sales, while Republican Senator John DeFrancisco made a large share of his up-to-$485,000 in income from his Syracuse law firm.
Democratic Senator John Sampson — now facing federal embezzlement charges — reported earning between $245,000 and $400,000 from outside sources. Those earnings came largely from his wife Crystal’s role as a partner at the accounting firm Ernst & Young. Sampson also dutifully reported a personal loan between $150,000 and $250,000 from real estate agent Ehul Ahmad, which prosecutors say Sampson sought to help fund his alleged scheme.
Members’ and spouses’ investments were the largest single source of outside income, and holdings include companies that have lobbied the state legislature, such as Apple, Goldman Sachs, Comcast and Verizon.
Excluding primary residences, which were not required to be reported, the average lawmaker owns assets worth between $732,000 and $1.3 million. Corwin had the most valuable reported net assets, somewhere between $40.1 million and $74.6 million, followed by Assemblymember Amy Paulin, whose assets are worth between $18.7 and $34.7 million, Democratic Assemblymember Charles Lavine, worth between $6 and $10.6 million, and Democratic Senator Liz Krueger, whose assets were reportedly worth between $4.7 and $7.2 million.
Not all the lawmakers are wealthy, and 36 members, out of a body of 213, reported having no savings, or debts exceeding their income.