Dede Scozzafava, the former assemblywoman from Gouverneur whose candidacy on the Republican line set off a national tempest in a tea pot, donated $100 from her still-active campaign account to Rep. Bill Owens, the Democrat who won the 2009 race.
That's despite the fact that she's no longer a politician, and she reportedly said her boss told her not to do so. What she's doing is perfectly legal, but it's also something that good government groups really detest.
Here's a timeline: At the end of March, the Committee to Elect Dierdre K. Scozzafava had $7,570 in the bank, even though she had already left office. The Associated Press started asking questions. The campaign committee raises and spends money to get candidates elected. But Ms. Scozzafava had left the Assembly to take a non-political job as the deputy secretary of state for local governments. What to do with that extra money?
New York's law says: whatever you want! But good-government groups say: We don't like political appointees having slush funds.
Here's what Ms. Scozzafava told the AP in April: "I'm going to find out the steps I need to take to get it in the proper mode because I understand the concerns you're raising."
The AP also reported that Gov. Andrew Cuomo — her new boss — had instructed appointees not to spend or take in money from the accounts.
Then comes the $100 donation to Mr. Owens, on June 15. (The donation itself is no big surprise. Ms. Scozzafava has endorsed him and campaigned for him since she bowed out late in the 2009 race. Today, she told me he's a centrist leader.)
I asked her whether or not it was unethical — because it's not illegal — to use that money.
"I think what I'm attempting to do is get the account where it's closed," she said. "It's just a question of refunding contributions and giving money out."
I asked why she hadn't closed it since the last time this issue was raised. She said she hadn't gotten around to it, but hoped to have it done by the next reporting cycle.
She also backtracked on the AP report that said giving donations was verboten, telling me that the Cuomo administration "indicated they did not want a lot of activity."
Just spoke with Barbara Bartoletti, the legislative director for the League of Women Voters, a good-government group that's al over this issue (Ms. Bartoletti was quoted extensively in the original AP report.
Here's what she said about Ms. Scozzafava's $100 donation:
"In the scheme of Albany and Washington, this is a very small donation... But we would certainly prefer that the money came from her and not from her previous campaign coffers. We think it should have been returned to her contributors."