The Dangers Of Integrating Personal Politics In Public Policy

Legislative Column from Assemblyman Marc W. Butler (R,C,I,Ref-Newport)
April 26, 2018

Gov. Cuomo and Department of Financial Services (DFS) Superintendent Maria T. Vullo recently issued a strong directive through an official memorandum urging chartered and licensed banks and institutions to sever ties with organizations such as the NRA. This was done supposedly as a matter of public safety, in a tone suggesting that there would be consequences for failing to fall in line. Would failing to do so lead to blacklisting these institutions? Would it be considered when these institutions have to file for certifications and other approvals from the DFS? The egregious integration of personal politics with public policy is highly dangerous, with possible disastrous implications as an agency is implying these “community institutions” should turn their back on certain organizations and the citizens associated with them.

The memo, which highly exploited the emotional and tragic occurrences in Parkland, Florida, concluded with the following: “In light of the above, and subject to compliance with applicable laws, the Department encourages its chartered and licensed financial institutions to continue evaluating and managing their risks, including reputational risks, that may arise from their dealings with the NRA or similar gun promotion organizations, as well as continued assessment of compliance with their own codes of social responsibility.”

Let me be clear, what occurred at Parkland was tragic, and I do not know any one constituent in my district, no matter what political party, whose heart does not break for these students. Disturbed individuals who perpetrate acts of violence are not representative of those who lawfully and carefully participate in their Second Amendment rights. The governor is insistent on conflating the two, and actively uses any tool or institution at his disposal to treat law-abiding gun owners as criminals and second-class citizens. Troubling, as at the same time he is willing to open the floodgates on parolee voting, increased early release and other overly-permissive policies in favor of convicted criminals.

In rural communities such as the ones I represent, gun ownership and participation in one’s Second Amendment rights is not as politicized as the governor would like the public to believe. It is part of a hunting and sportsman heritage and one’s ability to protect themselves in rural settings where immediate law-enforcement response is difficult. Honestly, gun owners range from grandpas, moms, teens and dads; they are not the rabid and heartless individuals the governor would like others to believe.

Whether or not the move from the governor and DFS falls in line with your personal beliefs is beside the point. The biggest danger lies in the erosion of a public official’s self-discipline in withholding his or her personal political agenda for the best interest for all citizens for whom they represent.

The governor and Superintendent Vullo are gleefully forgoing the measures of checks and balances put in place by our constitution. Let me be clear, this action from Cuomo and DFS threatens significantly more than just the Second Amendment; this action threatens political free speech, free association and freedom from feeling threatened by your own government over such things. The threat is to private institutions, organizations and most importantly individuals targeted by a personal agenda.

Again, I do not wish to go on a tirade about us versus them or rant that my values are more important than yours. I instead wish to remind all of us of our common values of free speech, checks and balances and the freedom from feeling threatened by our government. Individuals of character recognize missteps and work to correct them. I call on the governor to reverse this action, and if he really wants to work to improve school safety, let’s discuss what we can legally and lawfully accomplish.

I welcome input on this or any other legislative topic. Please contact me at 315-866-1632 or at butlerm@nyassembly.gov.