Sunday, November 17, 2013

New York City Council Speaker Race : Clash of the Titans

The Shifting Balance of Power in NYC Municipal Politics ; On One Side Are County Party Bosses and Big Business, On Other Side Are Lobbyists And Special Interests

The issues discussed at the docile City Council Speaker candidate forums have nothing to do with the closed-door interviews, back room deals, and the lobbyists jockeying to pick the next Council Speaker. The flood of money into politics from Citizens United is creating a "clash of the titans" between the County Political Bosses and Big Business, on one side, and Lobbyists and Special Interest Money, on the other. With campaign finance law failing to keep up with the changes in money in politics, the voters are being kept in the dark about the true way that the speaker is selected. (NYC Council Speaker 2013 - Citizens United and Lobbyists * YouTube)

New York City Council Speaker Race : Clash of the Titans photo ReleasetheKraken_zpsb2696635.jpg

Both Sides Play By The Same Playbook Of The Broken Political System : Flouting or Even Breaking The Rules : Both Sides Exploit Citizens United ; The Kraken Bears Down On Democracy

Who is going to slay the Kraken and end the role of money in politics ?

A veritable ''Clash Of The Titans'' is playing itself out in this year's race to become City Council speaker.

Big business groups and labor unions are exploiting a loophole in New York City campaign finance regulations to pour money and influence into the determining who will replace Christine Quinn as the next City Council speaker.

Big Business Interests/County Party Bosses. For example, because the preferred candidate, Christine Quinn, who was supported by Partnership For New York City, failed in the Democratic primary, big business interests are in a panic. Since they lost the mayoralty, they are now trying to influence the Council speakership. (Pro-Business Group Tried to Push Ferreras Into Speaker’s Race * Politicker)(Election Big Loser Kathy Wylde * NY Pop Culture & Politics) Other entrenched political operatives and lobbyists are trying to form a coalition with some of the county party bosses, to hold off the insurgency being waged by the Working Families Party and labor unions. (The Parkside Group's Citizen's United Invisible Campaign Consultant/Lobbyist Operates in Dark Pools * NY Pop Culture & Politics)

WFP/Unions. Challenging the big business interests are the Working Families Party and labor unions. Bill Lipton, Bill de Blasio, and Scott Levenson anchor the opposition to big business interests and the permanent government, but the problem is that the WFP and labor union coalition is playing by the same playbook of the broken political system, which activists say needs to be reformed. (Big player in her corner : The Advance Group is pushing Melissa Mark-Viverito's speaker candidacy * Politicker)(1199 Leads Effort Boosting Mark-Viverito * Politicker)

Both groups are pushing their own candidates, spending their own money, coordinating their campaign efforts, and exploiting loopholes in reporting their activities, disbursements, and fundraising.

When contacted about the loophole in oversight, reporting, and regulations in post-Election Day political campaigning for City Council leadership posts, representatives of the Campaign Finance Board have been accommodating of the flow of money and the use of lobbyists.

Meanwhile, in the press, a few journalists have been reporting bits and pieces of the post-Election Day politicking, and the analysis that is emerging of the City Council speakership race points to a new era of political bossism in New York City : where campaign consultants have been able to overcome the traditional political party county bosses as power brokers.

Where are all the "good government groups," the "get money out of politics groups," the "reform activists," and "investigative journalists" ?

Read also : ''A Possible Changing of the Guard On Who Picks the Council Speaker, Sunday Update'' (True News From Change NYC)

  • For the First Time, There is A Real Fight to Influence the Press, Public and Councilmembers in the Speaker's Race
  • On One Side, You Progressives, Unions, and the Working Families Party ; On the Other Side, You Have County Party Bosses, Big Business Groups Like The Partnership For New York City, and Lobbyists and Operatives From the Permanent Government
  • The Death of the Party Machine ?

The Progressive Caucus Distraction

Some press reports indicate that some of the County Bosses, for example Brooklyn's Frank Seddio, are losing power to the Progressive Caucus of Councilmembers, but that is an incomplete portraiture of what is behind the growing influence of the Progressive Caucus in this year's Council speaker race. Another press report shows that the Queens County Political Boss, Rep. Joe Crowley, is "warming to the idea of backing Mark-Viverito." Is the power of County Bosses collapsing ?

In City & State, Seth Barron again repeats that the Progressive Caucus is responsible for undermining the County Boss system.

Historically, the election of the Speaker, arguably the second most powerful political office in the city, has been even less democratic than it might appear, because more than half of the members of the Council essentially do not have free will over their votes. The county political organizations of the Queens, Brooklyn and Bronx Democratic parties have traditionally directed the votes of its members, and thus the Speaker and the key committee chairmanships have been divvied up through a series of negotiations and compromises among the party bosses.

With the advent of the council’s Progressive Caucus, some have argued that the heyday of the bosses is over and that a new bloc of reform-minded Council members will dominate the legislature of the city. The members of the caucus have vowed to vote as a unit in order to leverage the votes of their roughly 20 members into a powerful counterforce to the dominance of the county organizations. (Council Watch : Twilight Of The Bosses ? * City & State)

But this narrative doesn't tell the whole story of the Progressive Caucus.

The Progressive Caucus has also hired its own lobbyist, to hold closed-door meetings and to broker backroom deals in an effort to rival the County Bosses. Look at how Crains Insider has described some of the tensions causes by the competing forces to hold closed-door meetings :

A recent negotiating snafu demonstrates the conflict between the city's old and new political forces. About three weeks ago, council members from Queens who are part of the Progressive Caucus scheduled a meeting at the Queens office of law firm Sweeney Gallo Reich & Bolz. The firm's partners run the day-to-day operations of the borough's Democratic Party, and the progressives hoped to persuade them to partner in lining up the 26 votes needed to elect a speaker.

Just hours before the meeting, the leaders of the Queens Democratic machine learned that Ms. Hirsh of 32BJ would attend in her capacity as lead negotiator, according to multiple sources. The Democratic leadership, whose executive director declined to comment, demanded that only elected officials be allowed in the room.

The Progressive Caucus refused, and the meeting was canceled, sparking tensions between the two most powerful forces in this year's speaker race. A flurry of phone calls seeking to mend the rift has ensued, according to sources.

Indeed, even some "progressives" are critical of the Progressive Caucus's use of a lobbyist to lobby for the next year's Council speaker. "Ms. Hirsh is a well-connected operative who helped hammer out the deal to elect Ms. Quinn in 2005 on behalf of then-Brooklyn Democratic leader Vito Lopez. Still, her role this time as lead negotiator struck a number of lawmakers as highly unusual because of her dual role as a powerful lobbyist," Capital New York reported.

If there was ever an anti-labor speaker, it was Christine Quinn, who watered down two important labor-backed bills : the living wage bill and the paid sick leave bill. How could the Progressive Caucus turn to a Quinn-supporter to pick the next supposedly-"progressive" speaker ?

Other progressives have other criticism of the Progressive Caucus. City Councilmember Rosie Mendez has "declined to join the Progressive Caucus, the growing group of left-leaning Council members who are hoping to sway the speaker's race, because she said she found the process 'not to be transparent or inclusive,' " reported Sally Goldenberg for Capital New York.

The media's fear of confronting lobbyists

"Council speakers have historically been selected by leaders of borough political machines lining up votes and getting patronage jobs and plum committee chairmanships for friends and allies. But as their power to elect or unelect council members has waned, unions have filled the vacuum, with the labor-backed Working Families Party playing a part in electing much of the council," reported Chris Bragg for Crains Insider.

But few dare to confront the army of lobbyists working for the Working Families Party, the Progressive Caucus, and other special interests in the recent past municipal elections. And few are daring to look at the corruptive role of money these lobbyists are having on democracy.

Big player in her corner : The Advance Group is pushing Melissa Mark-Viverito's speaker candidacy. (Politicker) Who is paying Advance Group for helping Melissa Mark-Viverito ?
(Bill de Blasio Sold Out)
Union power play in council speaker race
(The New York Post)
In race for City Council speaker, Labor's influence is on the rise. (Crains)
Examining the role of consultants in the speaker race, and more (Crains) Political consultants, who work to elect lawmakers, are turning around and lobbying them on behalf of private clients.
(The New York Daily News)

There's no enforcement of Campaign Finance Board Regulations

Bonny Tsang, a public affairs officer with the CFB, responding to my inquiries by stating that, "The Council speaker race is not considered a separate election that needs to be reported to the CFB. If a candidate makes political expenditures, or accepts in-kind contributions, they should be reported in a future filing," adding, "We would have to review all facts or documentation regarding any candidate’s expenditures before we may make any kind of determination."

Separately, Matthew Sollars, the press secretary for the CFB, shared a link to the agency's November 2013 "Tip of the Month," which is a very relaxed form of "guidance." The note on post-election spending stated, "If your campaign received public funds, you are permitted to make only very limited post-election expenditures for nominal costs associated with the winding down of a campaign and responding to the Campaign Finance Board’s post-election audit. The longer it takes to wind down your campaign, the longer you continue to make expenditures, or the more you spend post-election, the more scrutiny those expenditures will receive."

Ms. Tsang says that there is basically no oversight of post-Election Day spending, whilst guidance provided by Mr. Sollars states that campaigning that benefitted from matching funds must wind down. There is no consistency in regulations, and thus this begets a gaping loophole that allows campaign consultants, unions, big business interests, and lobbyists to exploit the lack of supervision and regulation. Indeed, in his e-mail to me, Mr. Sollars wrote, "Disclosure of candidate campaign committee activities for the 2017 cycle through the CFB will begin in July 2014. However, committees making political expenditures should disclose that spending through the state Board of Elections by January 15, 2014," adding that, "The city’s independent spending disclosure rules require groups or individuals to disclose when they pay for public communications with voters."

Another possible loophole in the post-Election Day loophole in Council speaker campaigning is that the new incoming speaker oversees appointments with the next mayor over the CFB. How rigorous will the CFB be in investigating their next supervisors ?

2013-November-XX New York City Campaign Finance Board - Post Election Spending Guidance

Even though there are questions about double-dipping, possible two-timing on the part of The Advance Group, what we get from the mainstream media are essentially stories about the rise of the next Camelot : a fictitious narrative of the ascendancy of "progressives," who made the upward climb exploiting the same broken rules that reform activists claim need to be fixed ?

Political Insider Corruption In a Different Media World

According to True News From Change NYC, the City Source-Parking Violations scandal led to the imposition of real reforms, namely, the drafting and enactment of campaign finance laws and public money matching system. Perhaps by letting big business interests, lobbyists, and unions fully exploit every rule and flout every law in desperation, voters will again be able to benefit from the coming political scandals from this year's election cycle ? Let's wait and see how desperate the political campaign consultants and lobbyists become ....

The Advance Group, providing political consulting services for "free" to Melissa Mark-Viverito, was paid to defeat LGBT City Council Candidates

Will LGBT Groups Protest Scott Levenson for Anti-Gay Attack Ads ? (YouTube)

The Advance Group, which is providing unpaid consultants to Mark-Viverito, worked for the City Action Coalition PAC, which lists 'traditional marriage' as its platform and supported opponents of gay City Council candidates. (The New York Daily News) Did Scott Levenson sabotage LGBT civil rights attorney Yetta Kurland's political campaign ? (Scott Levenson : Biggest Loser Of The Week * NY Pop Culture & Politics)
Scott Levenson Super PAC LGBT marriage equality City Council gay candidates photo ScottLevensonSuperPACLGBTmarriageequalityCityCouncilgaycandidates_zps0598bfb3.jpg

Sign our Petition : Bill de Blasio : Do not attend NYCLASS fundraiser to benefit Scott Levenson

… the Advance Group's work on behalf of City Action Coalition-backed candidates conflicted with its work for two of its own council clients. And the outside work for the teachers union raises another potential conflict: the Advance Group not only produced mailers promoting Manhattan council candidate Yetta Kurland for the NYCLASS independent expenditure, but Strategic Consultants produced mailers touting her opponent, Corey Johnson, that were paid for by the teachers union. Mr. Johnson won the primary. (Teachers union paid $370K to fake consultant * Crain's Insider)

Why aren't the LGBT civil rights activists protesting against Scott Levenson and his "anti-gay agenda" ? And how can LGBT civil rights activists stay quiet while Ms. Mark-Viverito uses a political consulting operation that hires itself out to work against candidates specifically based on their identity ? This is discrimination and prejudice. How can Mr. Levenson and Ms. Mark-Viverito call themselves "progressives," yet enable bigotry ?

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