State Sen. Gustavo Rivera’s first legislative act was to introduce a bill that would require state elected officials to provide more detailed information on their financial disclosure forms.
The current form does not require legislators to disclose dollar amounts for outside income and is considered by many to be short and vague. The bill under consideration would require legislators to list outside incomes, as well as all of their clients in real estate or law and all of their business dealings with lobbyists.
So to get the transparency ball rolling, The Riverdale Press asked local representatives in Albany — Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, state Sens. Adriano Espaillat, Jeff Klein and Mr. Rivera — if they supported the bill and, if so, if they would disclose their income for the 2010 calendar year ahead of the bill’s possible passage.
They all said yes to both questions.
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said he made $110,000 last year: $79,500 as an assemblyman, a $12,500 stipend for chairing the Aging Committee, less than $20,000 as an attorney and “hundreds of dollars” in residual checks for his role in 2002’s Ralph Fiennes/Jennifer Lopez classic romantic comedy Maid in Manhattan.
In the film, Mr. Dinowitz plays a congressman. According to the Internet Movie Database, the film grossed over $93 million. Mr. Dinowitz pointed out it’s the highest grossing Jennifer Lopez movie of all time.
“When she stars in a movie with me it makes a bundle,” he said jokingly.
When it first came out in 2002, the checks were quite substantial, but over the years the amount reduced, he said.
Mr. Dinowitz said he works full-time as an assemblyman and hardly uses his law degree.
“I spent very little time taking advantage of my law degree. I do this just full time and then some,” he said, estimating he works 60 to 70 hours per week.
The former actor also pointed out that his entire income amounted to less than the base salary of a City Council Member, which is $112,500.
While he said he supported more transparency, he also said greater disclosure was not going to eliminate corruption.
“It’s not gonna change all the things people think its gonna change ... The crooks, they’re gonna find ways to be crooks. Hopefully there won’t be any more. Hopefully all the crooks are gone,” Mr. Dinowitz said.
Mr. Espaillat took a pay cut when he moved from the assembly to the senate in January because his committee role stipend, or “lulu” decreased. He also said he worked so much he had no time for an outside job and if he were to disclose his outside income, the total would be zero.
As an assemblyman, Mr. Espaillat made $92,000 last year: $79,500 base salary with a $12,500 stipend for chairing the Small Business Committee. In previous years, he said his only outside income he had was when he taught a Saturday political class at the City University of New York.
Mr. Espaillat said he works many nights until after 10 p.m. and estimated he puts in 70 to 80 hours per week.
“If you do the math I may be close to the minimum wage,” he said.
However, if he worked 80 hours per week, he would be making $22.11 per hour before taxes or taking vacation time into account.
When Mr. Klein is not working for the people of the 34th Senate district, he works as an attorney specializing in estate planning and personal injury. He said he supports increased disclosure laws and is currently a sponsor of the most sweeping ethics overhaul package that includes disclosure mandates close to what Mr. Rivera has proposed.
But he did not go into too much detail regarding his outside income.
“The range, per the filing with the legislative ethics commission is $100,000 to $220,000. In reality, its toward the lower end of that scale,” wrote a spokesperson for Mr. Klein in an e-mail.
Last year, Mr. Klein made a base salary of $79,500 and an additional $20,500 for his position as Deputy Minority Leader.
Mr. Rivera was not in office last year but participated in the disclosure practice-run as well. He estimated he made just over $30,000 in 2010: $25,000 as Sen. Kristin Gildebrand’s statewide director of outreach from January to March and $5,000 for teaching part-time at Pace University. He made less than usual because of his decision to run for office. While he campaigned, he said he ran through his savings and lived off loans from family and friends.
“I’m looking forward to this year for getting a salary for the year,” he said, laughing.
Mr. Rivera’s predecessor in the 33rd District had some problems related to his source of outside income. Pedro Espada Jr. is currently facing charges of stealing more than $500,000 from the taxpayer funded health clinic he founded and operated and Mr. Rivera said he is trying to restore the people’s trust.