What is the IDC?
The Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) – led by Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein – is a group of NY State Senators who were elected to office as Democrats but align with Republicans. Rather than support the leader of the mainline Democratic conference, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, they’ve supported Republican Senator John Flanagan as Senate Majority Leader. This gives the Republicans in the Senate control over the budget, over committee appointments, and over what legislation comes to a vote.
This is no new arrangement, nor does the IDC relent when Democrats have a stronger majority in the Senate: in 2012, Democrats won a majority of seats in the State Senate, but the IDC broke away from the main Democratic conference to give Republicans control. Democrats also held a majority of Senate seats after winning a Special Election in 2016, and once again after the 2016 election, but Republicans have remained in charge through their alliance with rogue Democrats.
Who is in the IDC?
The original cast:
- District 34 (Riverdale): Jeff Klein
- District 11 (Queens): Tony Avella
- District 38 (Rockland): David Carlucci
- District 23 (Staten Island and Brooklyn): Diane Savino
- District 53 (Syracuse): David Valesky
Joined in 2016-17:
- District 31 (Upper Manhattan): Marisol Alcantara
- District 20 (Central Brooklyn): Jesse Hamilton
- District 13 (Queens): Jose Peralta
And a special guest:
- District 17 (Brooklyn): Simcha Felder. He’s not in the IDC, but he was elected as a Democrat and also aligns with Republicans. Felder has signaled that he would rejoin the mainline conference if the IDC does.
What do the IDC members get out of this deal?
IDC members claim that their alliance is an effective way to gain leverage to advance progressive legislation, but year after year, this legislation dies in the Senate after passing the Assembly or (as in the case of the minimum wage law) passed only in heavily watered-down form. Read the long list of dead legislation.
What they actually get are “lulus” - committee positions awarded by the Republican leadership, which come with extra salary money, more prestige, and perks like better office space. These rewards are procured using questionable means, and both the state attorney general and U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn are currently investigating them.
In addition, big Republican donors contribute generously to IDC members and their conference. Fully one-third of the Real Estate Board of NY’s campaign spending in 2017 has gone to the IDC.
But my Senator is in the IDC, and his legislative record looks great!
The beauty of this deal is that IDC members can support, even co-sponsor, progressive legislation, to keep up appearances with their constituents. Since the Republicans control legislation, IDC members never have a chance to actually vote on the causes that they claim to support.
This is a scandal, let's get rid of these craven opportunists already. What do I do next?