Monday, May 19, 2014

Following campaign finance exploitation scandals, Mayor de Blasio neglects campaign promise for reform (Updated)


In spite of New York City campaign finance scandals, The New York Times is adamant to expand the corrupt NYC campaign finance model to the rest of NY State


Little Time Left for Campaign Reforms (The Editorial Board * The New York Times)

Preet Bharara Expands Crackdown on Political Corruption, Empanels Grand Jury, Subpoenas JCOPE Complaints [UPDATED] (NYC : News & Analysis)

Over the week-end, the Editorial Board of The New York Times recommended that Gov. Andrew Cuomo press the state legislature to adopt for New York state the public matching dollar system of the New York City campaign finance model. The only trouble is that that the New York City model is broken, can be gamed, and has become the subject of three federal complaints during last year's election. Furthermore, The New York Times completely ignored outstanding campaign promises made by Bill de Blasio during last year's mayoral campaign to further reform the city's campaign finance system. "The important thing is to respect the fact that we may not like the way the law is, but it's the law," Mr. de Blasio said last year after he was confronted with questions over a controversial Super PAC's attack TV ads against former Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "I certainly will put energy going forward into trying to further reform the campaign finance system," but Mr. de Blasio has so far failed to keep true to his campaign promise to reform campaign finance laws. How can the Editorial Board sanely demand that New York state adopt a broken system -- to replace another broken system ?

Scott Levenson NY-CLASS Christine Quinn Bill de Blasio FBI Investigation into Campaign Corruption photo 2014-04-25TheNewYorkDailyNewsFBIReport_zps189d95ac.png

In the past few weeks, FBI agents have been asking questions about the campaign by the animal rights group NY-CLASS to strong arm former Council Speaker Christine Quinn (center) to support a ban on the iconic horse-drawn carriages, two sources familiar with the matter told The New York Daily News. The horse lobbyists in question include Scott Levenson, and they are linked to Mayor Bill de Blasio (inset). (FBI investigating claim that Christine Quinn was threatened by Scott Levenson for refusing to support carriage horse ban during the mayoral race * The New York Daily News)

PUBLISHED : WED, 02 APR 2014, 06:59 PM
UPDATED : SUN, 27 APR 2014, 08:24 PM

The corrupt and exploitable NYC campaign finance model is spreading to the rest of NY State

Lax regulators, loopholes, and public matching dollars that can be gamed will create an avalanche of money for corrupt campaign consultants and lobbyists

Following serious questions about the corruptive influence of Super PAC's in last year's mayoral race -- the first time when the Citizens United Supreme Court decision unleashed unlimited outside spending in New York City's municipal elections -- Mayor Bill de Blasio made a campaign promise to reform the corrupt New York City campaign finance system. Confronted last year about the NYC Is Not For Sale campaign, then candidate de Blasio initially defended NYC Is Not For Sale's attack ads, saying, "People decided to speak out, and that's their legal right. But the fact is in our system, everything can and will be disclosed, and that's what the people require," although, contrary to then candidate de Blasio, the Super PAC got into trouble for failing to fully disclose its activities, as "the people require." At the time, Mr. de Blasio added that he'd be open to later reforming campaign finance laws (presumably after NYC Is Not For Sale sank former Speaker Quinn's mayoral campaign). "The important thing is to respect the fact that we may not like the way the law is, but it's the law. I certainly will put energy going forward into trying to further reform the campaign finance system, but so long as the law is the law, people will make choices within it. That is their right, but I will certainly never ask anyone to engage in such behavior." But so far, the mayor has betrayed his campaign promise to reform the loose campaign finance laws that allow Super PAC's to game elections. So far, the mayor has reformed nothing, even as the Supreme Court in today's McCutcheon ruling, continues the further weakening of campaign finance regulations. And as corrupt as many reform activists alleged that former Council Speaker Quinn was, the use of a Super PAC structure by lobbyists-insiders to appropriate the grassroots activism against former Council Speaker Quinn thwarted activists' efforts to set a public agenda for real reform.

  • RELATED : Despite promises to clean up Albany, good government groups say the budget deal that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders hammered out behind closed doors will do little to stop the rampant corruption that has plagued the state in recent years. (Crooked NY Lawmakers Have Little To Fear From New Laws * WNYC)
  • RELATED : Reform advocates and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo tout New York City's public campaign finance system as a model for the state to follow. But some political figures question the Campaign Finance Board leadership. (Campaign Finance Board leadership questioned * Newsday)

The New York State campaign finance model is already corrupt, and special interests, corrupt candidates, and their lobbyists are looking forward to the spread of the New York City campaign finance model to the rest of New York state, for they know that the system can easily be exploited.

In the last New York City municipal election cycle, campaign consultants and lobbyists to leading candidates exploited every opportunity to raise money, in violation of the spirit of campaign finance laws that originally aim to each of restrict the corruptive influence of big money donors and to create a level playing field for all candidates. According to New York City Campaign Finance Board records, independent expenditure groups spent over $15 million in last year's election cycle through largely unregulated special interest spending. But the system can be gamed. One Super PAC, NYC Is Not For Sale, violated city campaign finance disclosure rules, and, when they were caught, they were fined just pennies on the dollar for the infraction amounts. The system makes it very affordable to break the rules. Further, one brief mayoral candidate in last year's election, State Senator Malcolm Smith, almost fixed the GOP mayoral primary as a result of weak oversight and meaningless campaign and election regulations. Another municipal candidate for public office, Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito, opened multiple campaign finance accounts during the same election cycle, evidence that politicians are addicted to raising money -- and want to keep our broken system of campaign finance, so that it can be exploited when needed.

The only answer to clean elections is to ban all private campaign contributions, to fully fund elections with public money, and to institute stricter regulations on campaign consultants and lobbyists. If Mayor de Blasio were a true progressive, he would ban all private campaign contributions in New York City elections as a model for what a new era of real government reform looks like, setting a pattern that could be spread to the rest of the nation. Learn more about why advocates for "clean money" elections want to ban private donations.

Learn more about campaign finance reform activist Howie Hawkins' gubernatorial campaign.


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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