ALBANY – Sen. George Borrello’s office was recently requested to alter a mailing that he wanted to mail out to his constituents because it failed to follow State Senate mailing guidelines.
According to Borrello’s office, the Hanover Republican wanted to send out an information piece on the state budget to his constituents after the budget’s passage in early April. The mailer was submitted for review on May 4, but it wasn’t until June 23 that Borrello’s office was notified that some changes would have to take place before it could be sent out.
The process of mailing correspondences to constituents involves the use of the Senate’s mail service, which is paid for by taxpayers. As a result, all mailings are required to follow established guidelines and must be reviewed ahead of time to ensure those guidelines are followed. The guidelines state that a mailer can’t be overtly political and also must contain accurate information.
The review is conducted by the Secretary to the Senate, a position that has oversight over the administrative side of the chamber. The position is appointed by the Senate Majority Leader. In January 2019, Albany-based attorney Alejandra Paulino was appointed Secretary to the Senate by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins after the Democratic Party won control of the upper chamber.
According to Borrello, three different statements in his draft mailing were flagged. They read as follows:
- “An agenda-driven budget was enacted that ignores the needs of taxpayers, cuts funding to schools, hurts small businesses and will negatively impact our already fragile economy”;
- “Elements of the budget that prompted me to vote ‘NO’ include: $100 million for taxpayer-financed political campaigns“; and “A bail reform ‘fix’ that lacks the number one provision that law enforcement experts agreed was most critical: restoration of judicial discretion.“
The mailer, including the highlighted text that purportedly violated mailer guidelines, is also posted below.
Borrello said the decision to not send out his mailer as written was politically driven, was hypocritical, and also a form of censorship.
“It is the height of hypocrisy for a party that prides itself on tolerance and champions the freedom of speech protections in the First Amendment to exercise censorship over the mailings of Republican Senators,” Borrello wrote in a statement addressing the issue. “After a two month delay, the Senate’s Democrat Majority notified my office that they would not print and mail an informational piece on the state budget unless we revised or removed sentences they found objectionable. Using political power to stifle the speech of an independently elected state legislator is unconscionable and runs counter to the values of openness and integrity that the Majority claims to revere.”
On Friday afternoon WRFA reached out to Secretary to the Senate Paulino for comment on what specific guidelines were violated, as well as why there was a delay between when the mailer was submitted and when the review was completed and are awaiting a reply.
However, we did hear back from Gary Ginsburg, Senate Majority Spokesperson.
“Decisions on mail are not made by the Majority but by the Secretary to the Senate,” Ginsburg explained. “But all Senators have to ensure that their mail is not overtly political and is factual and not inaccurate. It sounds like Senator Borello had an issue with one of those criteria.”
Borrello, however, felt that everything he wrote was above board.
“The constituents in the 57th District work and pay taxes like New Yorkers across the state. They elected me as their representative and it is my responsibility to inform them of the Senate’s legislative actions, through my own perspective. Using its control of the Senate’s taxpayer-financed, in-house printing operation to censor my communication is reprehensible.”
Borrello is also calling for a change in the process of reviewing tax-payer funded mailers from elected officials in Albany.
“The entire situation underscores the need for the Senate to contract out its printing operations to an independent firm to eliminate the possibility of political censorship and assure fair and impartial service to every Senate member,” Borrello said.