Commission History

The History of New York State Ethics and Lobbying Commissions: 1906 – Present
The History of New York State Ethics and Lobbying Commissions: 1906 – Present

1906: The “Anti-Lobby” Law

New York’s first lobbying statute was enacted in 1906 (L. 1906, ch. 321), requiring registration of lobbyists and the reporting of their expenses to the Secretary of State.

1907: The Moreland Act

Formal governmental ethics legislation in New York dates at least to 1907, with the enactment of what is now Section 6 of the Executive Law, empowering the Governor to appoint so-called “Moreland Act Commissions” “to examine and investigate the management and affairs of any department, board, bureau or commission of the state.”

1953: The Special Legislative Committee on Integrity and Ethical Standards in Government

In response to a political scandal involving Senate Majority Leader (and former acting Lieutenant Governor) Arthur Wicks, Governor Thomas E. Dewey requested that the Legislature implement the Special Legislative Committee on Integrity and Ethical Standards in Government, which was successfully established in 1953.

1954: Governor Dewey and the First Code of Ethics

In 1954,  Governor Dewey brought about enactment of the predecessor to current Public Officers Law § 74, the Code of Ethics, which applied to executive branch and legislative employees (although not legislators). During this time, the Legislature also enacted a new Public Officers Law § 73. Enforcement was vested in the Attorney General, who was also charged with establishing an Advisory Committee on Ethical Standards to provide ethical guidance to state officers and employees. 

1962: Moreland Act Commission 

Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller established a Moreland Act Commission to investigate corruption and misconduct in government. Despite his efforts, no legislation or resignations resulted. However, the investigation prompted Governor Rockefeller to urge the Legislature to review any existing legislative code of ethics, identify conflicts of interest, and generally make recommendations in the area of legislative ethics. 

1964: The Special Committee on Ethics

In 1964, Governor Rockefeller’s suggestions led to the creation of the Special Committee on Ethics, abolishing the Special Legislative Committee on Integrity and Ethical Standards in Government. The Committee had one task: to develop recommendations on ethics reform for the Legislature. The Committee, which was disbanded once its recommendations were published, played a crucial role in bringing about passage of legislation that required legislators to report their interests in state regulated businesses and reaffirmed the existing law prohibiting seeking or accepting gifts. The legislation also established a legislative ethics committee in each chamber of the Legislature, created a separate code of ethics for legislators, and mandated certain financial disclosures. 

1975: Governor Hugh Carey and the Board of Public Disclosure

Governor Hugh Carey began mandating financial disclosure in 1975 after enacting Executive Order 10. The Order required policymakers (as determined by the Governor) and exempt non-competitive or unclassified State employees earning $30,000 per year or more[1], and such other State officers whom he appointed or nominated, to file financial disclosure statements via a form. The Order also established the Board of Public Disclosure, which consisted of seven members: the Secretary of State, Secretary to the Governor, Counsel to the Governor, and four others (who could not be holders of any public office), one of whom the Governor would designate as chair.

[1] In Evans v. Carey, 40 NY2d 1008 (1976), the Court of Appeals rejected the claim that the financial disclosure  requirements and outside activity restrictions and prohibitions embodied in Executive Order 10 were unconstitutional. Two years later, however, in Rapp v. Carey, 44 NY2d 157 (9178), involving a successor, and somewhat broader-reaching iteration of Executive Order 10, the Court of Appeals held that absent empowering legislation, the governor could not constitutionally impose those requirements and outside activity restrictions and prohibitions except upon officers and government employees other than those appointed or nominated by the governor or subject to summary dismissal by him. 

1986: The State-City Commission on Government Integrity

After revoking Governor Carey’s Executive Order 1030 and re-establishing the Board of Public Disclosure under new parameters, Governor Mario Cuomo and New York City Mayor Ed Koch established the State-City Commission on Government Integrity in 1986. The recommendations from the State-City Commission on Government Integrity resulted in the establishment of the Feerick Commission. The Feerick Commission was tasked with investigating the adequacy of laws, regulations, and procedures relating to maintaining ethical practices and standards in government.

1987: The State Ethics Commission and the Legislative Ethics Committee

A major result of the work of the Feerick Commission was the enactment of the Ethics in Government Act and New York State Governmental Accountability, Audit, and Internal Control Act of 1987. The Ethics in Government Act established the State Ethics Commission for all executive branch employees and the Legislative Ethics Committee for legislative branch employees and legislators. The State Ethics Commission had the power to receive complaints, initiate investigations, issue subpoenas, and refer matters to prosecutors. 

2007: Commission on Public Integrity 

The Public Employees Ethics Reform Act of 2007 (PEERA) was signed into law by former Governor Spitzer on March 26, 2007. PEERA created a new Commission on Public Integrity by merging the Temporary State Commission on Lobbying and the State Ethics Commission. Prior to the Temporary State Commission on Lobbying, state lobbying oversight was vested in the Department of State. The Commission on Public Integrity had 13 members, with seven appointed by the Governor, one by each legislative leader, one by the State Comptroller, and one by the Attorney General. 

2011: Joint Commission on Public Ethics

The Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011 (PIRA) became effective on August 15, 2011, after being signed into law by former Governor Andrew Cuomo. PIRA, replacing PEERA, transferred authority from the Commission on Public Integrity to the newly titled Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE). JCOPE was the first ethics agency in New York State history to regulate both the executive and legislative branches and had 14 Commissioners, appointed as follows: three appointed by the Temporary President of the Senate; three appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly; one appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate; one appointed by the Minority Leader of the Assembly; and six appointed by the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor.

2013: Moreland Commission

In 2013, former Governor Cuomo used powers derived from the Moreland Act of 1907 to create the Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, commonly known as the Moreland Commission. The Commission was created in an attempt to root out corruption in state politics by pursuing cases of misconduct among public officials and recommending changes to the state’s election and campaign fund-raising laws. The Commission to Investigate Public Corruption was abruptly disbanded halfway through what would have been an 18-month life. 

2022: Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government

Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Ethics Commission Reform Act of 2022 (ECRA) into law on April 9, 2022. ECRA repealed operative provisions of the Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011 and established the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government (COELIG or the Commission) to replace JCOPE. COELIG is an 11-member Commission in which nominees must be approved by the Independent Review Committee (IRC), which is composed of the Deans or designated Vice-Deans of the 15 accredited New York State law schools. Commissioners are appointed as follows: three by the Governor, two by the Senate President and Majority Leader, one by the Senate Minority Leader, two by the Assembly Speaker, one by the Assembly Minority Leader, one by the State Comptroller, and one by the Attorney General. 

ECRA expanded ethics training requirements to mandate live comprehensive ethics training for the entire state executive workforce, legislature, and legislative employees - more than 300,000 individuals -biannually with refresher online training in intervening years. ECRA also extended the Commission's ethics and enforcement jurisdiction over state employees for two years after separation of service from State government. In addition, ECRA removed special voting requirements for investigative and enforcement matters and allows such matters to be “elevated” into formal investigations on the initiative of staff or the Commission and to be advanced to hearing or other disposition by a simple majority vote of Commissioners.