Common Cause/NY Releases Major Review of Outside Income for NYS Lawmakers

Posted on December 17, 2015


On the heels of the bribery and fraud convictions of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, calls for ethics reform could not be stronger.

It's clear that corruption is a systematic problem in Albany where lawmakers can use their office to enrich themselves, often through outside jobs. With many policy leaders and politicians alike calling for banning or severely restricting outside income, the need for accurate information on what outside income looks like for state legislators could not be stronger.

With this in mind, Common Cause/NY produced an exhaustive and detailed analysis of outside income for all 213 members of the New York State Legislature. The review provides the clearest picture of the type of outside work lawmakers get paid for.

Methodology

Common Cause/NY downloaded 2015 Financial Disclosure Statements for all 213 lawmakers from the JCOPE website for analysis. The data reflect 2014 incomes. As such, lawmakers elected in the 2014 cycle have been excluded, since data is not available on outside income after they became legislators. Common Cause/NY expects that many, if not all, new members no longer hold their prior jobs.

Additionally, since the recent felony convictions for both Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos have removed them from office, both have been excluded from the data.

What does the data say?

CCNY 2015 Outside Income Pie

Here’s the good news for reform: 60% of the legislators in both houses who were elected before 2014 declared no outside income.

Of the 183 lawmakers elected prior to 2014, roughly 60%, or 110, do not have any outside income supplementing their $79,500 base pay as legislators.

When outside income does exist, it is often substantial. On average, lawmakers (elected before 2014) with outside income make between $47,216 - $80,216. Around 8% of NY’s elected legislators in both houses make between $100,000 and $515,000.

CCNY 2015 Outside Income Chart

Where does outside income come from?

Far and away, the most common source of outside income comes from the legal field (ala Sheldon Silver), with either the title "partner" or "of counsel" to a law-firm. 38 of the 73 legislators with outside income earn the majority of their outside income from practicing law, for a combined estimated sum of almost $3 million.

CCNY 2015 Outside Income by Industry

Legislators in the insurance industry make the highest amount of outside income with an average of $140,750.

Six legislators made the majority of their outside income from teaching at a university for the average pay of $17K.

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Click here to view the raw data.

Full briefing is available here.

Office: Common Cause New York

Issues: Ethics

Tags: Framework for Ethics Reform

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