Monday, December 9, 2013

Exploiting NYC, NYS Campaign Finance Law Loopholes

PUBLISHED : MON, 09 DEC 2013, 10:21 AM
UPDATED : SUN, 06 APR 2014, 12:00 PM

Melissa Mark-Viverito and Carl Kruger exploit campaign finance loopholes

Former New York State Sen. Carl Kruger, who is currently imprisoned after having been convicted on federal bribery charges, is still receiving contributions to his New York State campaign finance account, reports The New York Daily News, adding, "Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat, is one of dozens of former - and even deceased - lawmakers who still maintain active campaign accounts. He has spent more than $200,000 from his account since heading off to prison, most of which was used to pay his lawyers. His account still had a $415,753 balance as of his most recent filing in July."

A series of editorials by the Editorial Board of the same newspaper slammed City Council speaker candidate Melissa Mark-Viverito for first circumventing city campaign finance laws and then for exploiting loopholes in the state's campaign finance laws.

"Mark-Viverito has opened a campaign account under state regulations. She is apparently accepting contributions and apparently paying different consultants to advance her cause. Who’s giving her money and who’s getting her money will not be disclosed until after the speaker’s contest is settled," the Editorial Board wrote in the second editorial, noting, "At the same time, hopefuls Dan Garodnick of Manhattan and Mark Weprin of Queens are dipping into campaign accounts to give tens of thousands of dollars to fellow councilmembers and party organizations," before concluding, "None of this is acceptable."

Eleanor Randolph is disappointed that the Moreland Commission didn't do more to report on the pay-to-play corruption in New York politics.

Eleanor Randolph, appearing on The New York Times Close-Up on NY1 photo Eleanor-Randolph-The-New-York-Times-IMG_5319_zps42b52e22.jpg

Last week-end, Eleanor Randolph appeared in the roundtable segment of The New York Times Close-up on NY1, and she expressed annoyance that the Moreland Commission didn't do the kind of investigation typically reserved for journalists. Forgetting that she is an editor of the newspaper of record, namely, The New York Times, Ms. Randolph overlooked her own role in being able to expose pay-to-play corruption and corralling public opinion to demand campaign finance reforms. Instead, Ms. Randolph expected the Moreland Commission to do her job for her, for example, she complained that the commission didn't "name any names." Ms. Randolph, as an editor of The NYTimes, can assign investigative reporters to examine, for example, the corruptive influence of money in politics playing out right now in the New York City Council speaker's race. But she has not.

One of the main concerns over the conditions of the current Council speaker's race, where lobbyists are seemingly allowed to provide free or discounted campaign services to politicians, is that politicians become indebted to these same lobbyists, creating a conflict of interest where politicians then must return favors to these lobbyists. Campaign reform activists complain that favor-trading like this is a form of pay-to-play politics, because politicians are receiving campaign and lobbying services that they either cannot afford or that exceed or violate campaign finance caps or regulations.

Thus far, only one article has been published by The NYTimes, namely "In Campaign, Cash Flowed Circuitously" by Michael Powell, even though The New York Observer, Crains Insider, Capital New York, The New York Daily News, and most notably True News From Change NYC have been examining in depth the role of one influence-peddler, Scott Levenson, in some shady backroom machinations, including his role in selecting the next Council speaker.

Two weeks prior on The New York Times Close-up, Ms. Randolph acknowledged that the campaign to determine the next Council speaker was an "insider race" where the public had no role, but The NYTimes has not reported to what degree that "insider race" is creating the same pay-to-play culture of corruption, which Ms. Randolph takes to television to denounce. She herself is enabling the lack of transparency, untimely public disclosure, and exploitation of campaign finance loopholes.

Federal prosecutors are depending on investigative journalism to help expose corruption, but journalists are relying on the government to police itself.

Preet Bharara - The Only Policeman In New York State photo Preet-Bharara-dbpix-henning-tmagArticle-NYTimes_zpsaf6e1719.jpg

Preet Bharara : New Media Will End NYC's Journalism of Sheep. In testimony before the Moreland Commission, Mr. Bharara lamented the loss of investigative journalists, but he put high hopes on new outlets and revived old media. * U.S. Attorney To Commission : Political Corruption Is Out Of Hand In New York State (CBS New York) :

To repeat a longstanding lament, investigative journalists have become a dying breed, although there are still a few extraordinary practitioners, some of whom are here tonight. With each press outlet that closes or downsizes, opportunities to ferret out fraud and waste and abuse are lost.

And that is too bad because, as Edward R. Murrow once observed, 'A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.'

But maybe the thinning ranks of investigative journalists will be fortified :

Maybe Politico’s purchase of Capital New York and its planned infusion of staff and resources will mean more Albany muckraking.

Maybe Jeff Bezos’s purchase of the Washington Post and his reported interest in rejuvenating a storied history of eye-popping investigations will prove contagious.

And maybe fresh news outlets like BuzzFeed whose editors are said to be bent on doubling down on political investigations will provide grist for Commissions like this one.

We shall see.

See Also : Preet Bharara hopes for more muckraking in Albany


One week after our original post, Eleanor Randolph announced her resignation from the Editorial Board of The New York Times.

(Updated : Tuesday 17 Dec 2013 16:06)

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