Legislator wants to limit campaign contributions

Legislator wants to limit campaign contributions

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta. File photo

At least one Suffolk County legislator believes that money in politics can be linked to corruption in local government, though he said he’s yet to gain any support from other lawmakers.

Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) introduced a bill in March that would limit donations to $2,000 per election cycle to elected officials running for office from contractors and public employee unions that do business with the county. The bill would limit the hundreds of businesses and unions that have contracts for services with the county. A full list of contracts can be found on Suffolk County’s website.

“It is not uncommon for people and organizations doing business with Suffolk County to make donations to the political campaigns of county officials and candidates seeking county office,” Trotta said in press release on March 23. “Such contributions can be interpreted by the public as a ‘pay to play’ that results in government contracts being awarded on the basis of connections and contributions.”

Trotta said in a phone interview Monday that he hoped to gain support from other legislators, though so far he hasn’t gotten any.

“This bill is the first step in trying to clean up the cesspool that is county government,” Trotta said. “Anybody who says the money doesn’t affect them, they’re lying.”

Trotta said the indictment and guilty plea of former Suffolk County Chief of Police James Burke is an example that a lack of oversight on county government has allowed corruption to run rampant. Trotta was a member of the Suffolk County Police Department for 25 years, according to his page on the county’s website.

Trotta also referenced Edward Walsh, the Suffolk County Conservative Party Chairman, who was found guilty of defrauding the Sheriff’s Office on March 31. Walsh could be sentenced to up to 30 years in jail, according to a release from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

“I’m trying to take the money out of politics,” Trotta said. “Clearly, there’s a conflict there. This is why you’re seeing all of this corruption.”

Trotta said the unanimous county Legislature vote to approve the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association contract in October 2012 was another example of potential corruption. He said he introduced a bill shortly thereafter that would shine more light on county organizations like the police department, though it didn’t gain any traction.

“It makes no logical sense that there is no oversight,” Trotta said.

The Suffolk County PBA and a media representative for County Executive Steve Bellone (D) did not respond to requests for comment.

Trotta said he did not pour money into his own campaign to get elected to represent the 13th legislative district in 2013. He said he does not accept donations from unions, and the largest donation that he has received was about $2,500 from a friend.

“I have to thank my constituents for giving me the ability to do this,” Trotta said. He added that he is fortunate to be from a strong, well-versed community who elected him despite his modest campaign spending.