Wednesday, April 9, 2014

After gaming NYC campaign finance model, mayor and his allies plan to game the NYS model, too

PUBLISHED : SUN, 09 APR 2014, 09:30 AM
UPDATED : SUN, 11 MAY 2014, 10:00 PM

If we have to depend on the Working Families Party for election and campaign finance reform, we are in big trouble

The $200 million cost of spreading the corrupt New York City campaign finance model to the rest of New York state would form an avalanche of money, and all this money would pick up wild speeds as it hurled straight into the pockets of the corrupt campaign consultants and lobbyists that keep the political system broken and owned by big money donors and special interests. This is not what real reform would look like. Real reform would be banning all private donations, ending the appointment of campaign finance regulators by politicians, and instituting newer, tougher regulations of campaign consultants/lobbyists.

"The WFP, a strong ally of Mayor de Blasio’s and, after a string of victories in last fall’s elections, the most potent player in city politics, believes that winning approval of a public-finance system — which could cost taxpayers $200 million per election cycle — would enhance its quest for higher taxes and more government spending throughout the state."

In it's article, The New York Post lumped the Working Families Party in with "election reformers" and "good government groups." What a joke !

In last year's municipal elections, the most visible Working Families Party political operatives, Scott Levenson and Patrick Gaspard, became the subject of federal complaints over corrupt electioneering activities. These and other corrupt campaign consultants and lobbyists know how to game the system of public matching dollars that once made the New York City model of campaign finance such a darling for government reform activists. However, in the years since its inception, the New York City campaign finance model has shown that it can be exploited by shady lobbyists seeking to make Swiss cheese of city campaign finance regulations. Not only that, but the Working Families Party is said to have many issues with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's neoliberal policies, but the Working Families Party is actually engaging in negotiations to broker a deal to endorse Gov. Cuomo in this year's race reelection race, in spite of Gov. Cuomo's failure to revolutionise campaign finance reform in New York state. It is now possible for candidates to violate caps on political campaign donations by opening several campaign accounts across several jurisdictions and for multiple political campaigns -- all during the same election cycle. Just look at what New York City Councilmeber Melissa Mark-Viverito did in last year's race.

With support from the Working Families Party and operatives loyal to the WFP, Councilmember Mark-Viverito was eligible for four campaign accounts last year: a campaign account, for which there is no transparency, for a Democratic Party District Leader race ; a campaign account for a City Councilmember race that was eligible for public matching dollars in exchange for a spending cap ; a largely unregulated campaign account for a controversial Council speaker race ; and, as icing on the cake, a campaign account for inauguration and transition activities to reward her donors and political operative supporters. Combined, her dependence on a never-ending cycle of corrupt campaign finance spending opens New York City government to the corruptive influence of big money donors, corrupt campaign consultants, and shady special interests and their lobbyists. Add to this the fact that the corrupt political campaign system selects do-nothing officials to nominally oversee campaign finance regulations. In New York City, Rose Gill Hearn oversees the Campaign Finance Board, the city's campaign finance regulatory authority. In her past post as chief of the city's Department of Investigation, Ms. Hearn did nothing in the face of a massive $600 million CityTime fraud by SAIC. If she has no integrity to stop massive corporate fraud, then her corrupt record makes her perfect to keep allowing political operatives and lobbyists to keep gaming the city's campaign finance regulations under the de Blasio administration.

This same model is the vision that the Working Families Party has for the rest of New York state : a campaign finance model that can be gamed and exploited, that leaves elected officials incapable of providing any checks-and-balances on government or corrupt special interests, precisely because all these elected officials are feeding off the nipple of a corrupt campaign finance system that allows big money donors and special interests to set government agenda. It's been reported that the WFP plans to use changes in the state's campaign finance regulations to enact its agenda across the state. But the WFP has shown that what drives its agenda is the source of its campaign donations. In the effort to raise vast amounts of money for state-wide political campaign races, the WFP is going to represent the interests of its donors and the lobbyists, who are paid to conduct these campaign, similar to how the party conducts its business in the city level. How many Bloomberg-era policies have yet to be fully ended or reformed ? If the WFP portrays itself as a reform party, where has it been on the controversial appointment of William Bratton as police commissioner ? What is the WFP going to do to force City Hall to settle the class action lawsuit filed by homeless youths by fully providing the resources to homeless youths so that they can receive shelter, as required by law ? It seems like the WFP isn't interested in reforming some social issues, unless there are big money donors attached to those issues.

In spite of all of his empty rhetoric during last year's campaign season, Mayor Bill de Blasio is still going to allow real estate developers to get their hands of valuable hospital property for zone-busting luxury housing development deals in gentrifying neighborhoods, like what is happening at Long Island College Hospital. Amongst big business special interests, real estate lobbyists and developers have become key mayoral supporters, so it should come as no surprise to see the mayor carry out a city agenda that delivers on the corrupt expectations of real estate developers. On the other end of the political spectrum, you had a Super PAC administrated by Mr. Levenson, the WFP operative and former ACORN spokesman, which spend a million dollars to defeat former Council Speaker Christine Quinn in last year's mayoral race in what some have said was a coordinated act to benefit the mayoral campaign of Bill de Blasio. Further muddling this electioneering controversy is that the NY-CLASS animal rights group and their supporters, trying to enact a noble ban on carriage horses in Central Park, chiefly funded the Super PAC, provided electioneering support to Councilmember Mark-Viverito, and its Super PAC administrator, Mr. Levenson and his lobbying firm, helped to select Councilmember Mark-Viverito as Council speaker, a position from which NY-CLASS would expect Speaker Mark-Viverito to deliver the horse carriage ban.

Once the mayoral race was over, the corruptive role of money in politics cycled out of their Super PAC structures and into 501(c)(4) structures. Witness how the mayor became entangled in a political vendetta against the powerful charter schools executive, Eva Moskowitz. After the mayor took actions to destroy Ms. Moskowitz's charter school corporation, Ms. Moskowitz raised big money donations and launched a powerful multi-million TV attack ad campaign against the mayor. Ms. Moskowitz was so successful that the governor, impressed by her fundraising prowess, came to her rescue ; the mayor, out-raised and out-spent, had to retreat ; and now, the mayor is fighting to resuscitate his damaged popularity poll numbers by mounting his own TV campaign blitz, touting his nominal win in expanding pre-kinder in New York City.

If the mayor needs to keep fluffing his image with political TV commercials, then he's going to have to keep raising more and more special interest money from big money donors. And the Working Families Party, which the mayor co-founded, will undoubtedly keep helping the mayor to keep money in politics, so long as it is to their advantage, meaning that we have very little hope of ending campaign finance corruption in New York. And what can big business interests, like Ms. Moskowitz, learn from these first 100 days of the de Blasio administration ? Keep raising 501(c)(4) political campaign money until it comes time to switch back to Super PAC's, for Ms. Moskowitz has proven herself to be able to challenge Mayor de Blasio in 2017. It's not that her ideology is right, it only comes down to her ability to raise big money donations that can roll over the mayor's political machine in a backdrop of lax campaign regulations and do-nothing regulators. In this vicious cycle, the awareness by the mayor and by his scores of political operatives of Ms. Moskowitz's campaign finance threat frightens the mayor into greater and greater dependence on political campaign donations to fund paid sick day advertising blitz and the pre-kinder commercials. Instead of reforming campaign finance by banning all private donations, along the lines of reforms called for by Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins, the mayor and his team of political operatives are going to double-down on their dependence on big money campaign donors.


QUESTIONING THE NEW YORK CITY CAMPAIGN FINANCE BOARD

With John Liu's lawsuit against New York City over conflicted city campaign finance regulators, this makes three federal referrals of elections violations, forcing Mayor de Blasio to lawyer-up, recruit special inside election counsel.

After a wave of federal complaints that have been lodged over electioneering violations in last year's municipal elections, Mayor Bill de Blasio has hired a special legal advisor specializing in election law.

Since Mayor de Blasio and City Council Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and/or their political operatives, are entangled in some of these federal complaints, it should come as no surprise that Mayor de Blasio is now maneuvering to use his public office to defend himself against allegations of wrong-doing that took place during the electioneering of last year's municipal elections.

The three federal complaints lodged following last year's municipal elections :

  1. GOP consultant E. O'Brien Murray argued to the State Department that Patrick Gaspard, a former top White House aide with a deep history in Gotham politics, violated the federal Hatch Act by getting involved in Mayor de Blasio's campaign -- and City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito's subsequent election as speaker -- while representing the U.S. in South Africa. (GOP Operative Files Hatch Act Complaint Against U.S. Ambassador Patrick Gaspard * The New York Daily News)
  2. Louis Flores, a local political gadfly who ran a blog and wrote a book criticizing Christine Quinn, has filed a complaint with U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s criminal division against Scott Levenson and The Advance Group consulting firm, which came under deep scrutiny during the mayoral campaign. (Federal Complaint Filed Against The Advance Group for Election Work * Politicker)
  3. Former New York City Comptroller and failed mayoral candidate John Liu has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and its Campaign Finance Board. He says the board unfairly crippled his campaign by denying him matching funds in last year's race for mayor. (Ex-NYC mayor hopeful sues Campaign Finance Board * AP/The San Francisco Chronicle)


Lax city campaign finance regulators allowed loopholes and exploitation to corrupt the race for the New York City Council Speaker

A series of editorials by the Editorial Board of The New York Daily News slammed City Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito during the Council speaker race, first for 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."

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