Pay-to-Play in Council Speaker Race
"According to sources close to the situation, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has promised a number of committee leadership posts to City Council members in order to guarantee that Melissa Mark-Viverito is named Speaker come Jan. 8," The Queens Tribune reported today.
See : Committee Chairs Found Under The Christmas Tree (The Queens Tribune)
Three original members of the City Council Progressive Caucus, Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Woodside), and Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), were reportedly offered leadership posts in exchange for supporting Ms. Mark-Viverito's speakership.
Ms. Ferreras would be named the Majority Leader, whilst Mr. Van Bramer would be named as chair of the Finance Committee, and Mr. Dromm would head the Education Committee.
The backroom deals that reportedly secured Ms. Mark-Viverito's speakership also included an offer to David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn) to head the Land Use Committee "as a means of swaying Brooklyn," The Queens Tribune report added. Committee chair assignments in the City Council come with annual bonuses called a payment in-lieu-of expenses, more commonly referred to as "lulus." Lulus can range from $4,000 to over $20,000.
See : Corrupt Lulu Payments (The New York Daily News)
What Makes The Committee Assignment Offers An Example Of Pay-to-Play ?
It’s the votes that the City Council members must “pay” to select Ms. Mark-Viverito as the next speaker in exchange for receiving the lulus that come with the committee chair assignments.
The quid pro quo is revealed in the threat that was reported in The Queens Tribune, namely, that "If you're not with them, you're not getting a committee" assignment and the lulu that comes with it. This is what makes it pay-to-play.
Granted, we don't normally think that the inducements involved in securing the votes of City Council members as pay-to-play, but when players are told that the "price of admission" is framed as a vote for a Council speaker candidate, that's another way to examine the speaker candidate votes in order to receive plum Council committee assignments and lulus.
That these Council leadership posts, and the valuable lulus that come with them, are being doled out in backroom deals proves that some amongst the next class of powerful Council leaders will owe their allegiance directly to the mayor, betraying democratic principles of separation of powers and checks-and-balances between the mayor's office and the municipal legislature.
In years past, it was widely reported that the out-going Council speaker, Christine Quinn, awarded (or withheld) Council leadership posts as a way to recompense her allies (or to punish her critics). Speaker Quinn defended this practise as a way to bring "discipline" to the City Council, which was code for being able to exert the power to single-handedly control the Council's legislative agenda. The use of committee assignments and lulus as inducements to support a Council speaker candidate would appear to be a continuation of corruptive coercion over City Council members. Speaker Quinn's own ascension to power was clouded by the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups, including County Democratic bosses, compounded by the distribution of Council leadership posts and lulus.
See : The Outsider Comes In (The Village Voice)
See also : Filling Committee Leadership Posts (The New York Times)
Much of this was documented in Chapter 8 of Roots of Betrayal : The Ethics of Christine Quinn.
The political ethic of progressivism is supposed to be about delivering reforms, not exploiting the possibility of pay-to-play. Indeed, The Queens Tribune report indicated that City Council members were being pressured into supporting Ms. Mark-Viverito's speakership. "If you're not with them, you're not getting a committee," one source told The Queens Tribune. The campaign promises by this bunch of progressives to administer the city differently from the outgoing administration are about as credible at this point as Speaker Quinn's recent protestations that she had remained faithful to her progressive roots. If there is any difference, it is that the next class of elected officials is already selling out, before they even take their oaths of office.
Left unsaid is whether these latest allegations of pay-to-play will lend urgency to other investigations into possible violations of campaign finance and ethics regulations connected to Ms. Mark-Viverito and to the lobbyists working on her speakership campaign.
Conflicts of Interests, Violations of Ethics : Clash of the Titans in the Fight to Select the Next Council Speaker
The ''Clash of the Titans'' to select the next speaker between the Democratic County bosses and their lobbyists vs. the new ''progressives'' and their lobbyists is escalating. Ms. Mark-Viverito is now threatening to fire all central Council staff that have loyalties to the Democratic County Bosses. Isn't this a violation of civil service regulations ?