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Another Complaint Against Congressman

Wed, 08/02/2023 - 18:33

End Citizens United, which works to elect Democratic candidates and to combat the influence of money in politics, has filed a second complaint against Representative Nick LaLota of New York’s First Congressional District, this one alleging that he violated federal election law by failing to file complete financial disclosure reports.

In April, Tiffany Muller, the group’s president, charged that Mr. LaLota, his 2022 campaign for Congress, his campaign treasurer, and his 2020 State Senate campaign violated the Federal Election Campaign Act and Federal Election Commission regulations by making a direct contribution from his state committee to his federal committee, and “appears to have used his State Committee to pay the expenses of his federal campaign.”

The group asserts that the commission’s second-quarter reports indicate that Mr. LaLota has not returned the money to his state committee. Another New York congressman, Representative Marc Molinaro of the 19th District, did so shortly after End Citizens United filed a similar charge with the F.E.C.

On June 26, Amanda Bogden of End Citizens United filed a complaint against Mr. LaLota with the Office of Congressional Ethics. She asserted that the congressman is in violation of the Ethics in Government Act “by failing to file complete financial disclosure reports as required by law.” The independent Office of Congressional Ethics reviews allegations of misconduct against members of the House of Representatives and their staff, and refers them, as appropriate, to the House Committee on Ethics.

The Ethics in Government Act requires federal candidates and officeholders to file financial disclosure reports, including their and their spouse’s assets if those assets were worth more than $1,000 at the close of the reporting period, or generated unearned income in excess of $200 during the reporting period. Ms. Bogden charged that Mr. LaLota noted on his financial disclosure report that he is the owner of “the 495 Consulting Group,” but did not list it as an asset.

End Citizens United further charged that, while Mr. LaLota listed his wife’s individual retirement account and 403(b) account (a retirement plan offered by public schools and some charities) as single line items on his financial disclosure report, he did not disclose the accounts’ underlying holdings. The former account is valued at $1,001 to $15,000, the latter at $50,001 to $100,000, figures required to be reported, according to the Ethics in Government Act. “By failing to disclose the specific holdings of the 403(b) account and the underlying holdings of the IRA, the public has no way of knowing the full extent of the Representative’s financial interests or assessing any potential conflict of interest,” Ms. Bogden wrote.

The congressman, she continued, also failed to disclose “complete information regarding his Suffolk County Deferred Compensation Plan” by not specifying “which T. Rowe Price funds are held within his compensation plan or the value of each fund at the end of the reporting period. As a result, the report again lacks the crucial information the Act requires to be disclosed included for this type of account.”

Mr. LaLota, Ms. Bogden further charged, did not disclose the clients of the 495 Consulting Group. “If that generated more than $5,000 in 2020, 2021, or 2022, he should have identified those clients on his report,” she wrote, “or indicated that the clients’ identity was confidential.”

The omissions “are highly concerning,” Ms. Bogden continued, “as it obscures sources of revenue the Representative had during the 2022 cycle.” She called on the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate. “The Representative’s disregard for his financial disclosure obligations is not only a violation of federal law but it also shields the public from critical information about his financial interests,” she wrote. Voters, she said, should have had that information before the 2022 election.

Will Kiley, a spokesman for Mr. LaLota, told The Star that “we’re actively working with campaign finance experts to ensure all federal laws are followed.” As for End Citizens United, Mr. Kiley called the group “a useless, partisan, dark-money group that has accomplished absolutely nothing.”

Mr. LaLota, a Republican, is serving his first term in Congress. He was appointed to the Amityville Village Board in 2013 and successfully ran for election the following year and re-election in 2015. He also served as the village’s budget officer. He defeated Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming in last year’s election, following former Representative Lee Zeldin’s decision to run for governor of New York, a race Mr. Zeldin narrowly lost.

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