Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Using political entities, operatives close to mayor exploit campaign finance regulations through ''pattern'' of activities

PUBLISHED : FRI, 23 MAY 2014, 04:18 PM
UPDATED : TUES, 27 MAY 2014, 07:20 AM

Ongoing Levenson-Lewis-de Blasio political activities that may rise to be prohibited ?

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Scott Levenson's campaign practices are damaging his brand, will it extend to his clients as well ? (Scrutiny of Advance, Levenson Heating Up * City & State)

What is truly delaying the horse-drawn carriage ban : is it the lack of a draft legislative bill, or is it the federal definition of bribery ? (The Nexus of Campaign Donations, Super PAC's, and Legislation : de Blasio's Mayoral Race and the Delayed Horse-Drawn Carriage Ban [UPDATED] * NYC : News & Analysis)

Last year was the first time when the corrupt Citizens United Supreme Court decision allowed Super PAC’s to influence the municipal elections in New York City. One Super PAC, deceptively called Jobs For New York, spent millions that were largely funded by greedy real estate developers, who were trying to buy off politicians. But one lobbyist, in particular, Scott Levenson, exemplified the worst of Super PAC corruption. So far, one Super PAC and two political campaigns managed by Mr. Levenson have been fined for campaign finance violations, and the city’s campaign finance regulatory authority has indicated that more fines may follow.

The facts surrounding the ongoing political activities of the campaign organizations maintained or controlled by Scott Levenson give rise to an « established pattern. »

Now that the Campaign Finance Board has fined each of Mr. Levenson's Super PAC and the campaign committees of Councilmember Laurie Cumbo and Councilmember Mark Levine, rendering decisions that prohibited coordination took place between the Super PAC and official political campaigns, these determinations may have federal legal implications. The chair of the Campaign Finance Board, Rose Gill Hearn, has been criticized in the past for going soft on some investigations, but she may have shown, with these early Super PAC rulings, an « established pattern » of activites, whereby Mr. Levenson is mainintaing and controlling political entities for the apparent purpose of gaming New York City’s campaign finance regulations, activities, which include :

The situation for Mr. Levenson and his lobbying clients shouldn’t have been allowed to have become so severe. Mayor de Blasio had made a campaign promise to reform campaign finance laws, but the mayor hasn’t proposed any reforms. Indeed, he has no motivation to, not when he and his political operatives stand to gain so much from an ongoing pattern of political activities.

The New York Post has reported that since 2001, the mayor’s political operatives, possibly including Bertha Lewis and others, have been conducting activities with the goal of electing Mr. de Blasio as mayor, a feat they finally achieved last year, possibly with the help of a Super PAC. The Super PAC administered by Mr. Levenson was called NYC Is Not For Sale, but it organized under the astroturf campaign called, Anybody But Quinn. The project to elect the mayor began not long after the Working Families Party was co-founded by Mr. de Blasio, Ms. Lewis, ACORN, several unions, and others.

Ms. Lewis’s post-ACORN, post-New York Communities for Change organization is called The Black Institute, and she shares office space with Mr. Levenson, as did the now notorious Super PAC, which Mr. Levenson administered. Sometimes, all of their ongoing political activities appear just sufficiently distant from the mayor, and sometimes they don’t.

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The close relationship between City Hall and the private firms attached to the UPKNYC effort has raised eyebrows amongst government reform activists due to the fact that the mayor continues to rely on large political donations after normal election cycles to advance his own political ambitions, which many see as separate from the many unpopular political decisions he faces as the city's new mayor. (Bill de Blasio’s Old Campaign Operations Live On, in One Form or Another * Politicker)

Once the mayoral race was over, the corruptive role of money in politics cycled out of the NYC Is Not For Sale and New York Jobs Now Committee Super PAC structures and into 501(c)(4) structures, just like money used to cycle from ACORN, to New York Communities for Change, to the Working Families Party, to NYCLASS, and to The Black Institute, depending on whether Mr. de Blasio was facing an election year, or not. How Mayor de Blasio directs the affairs of political entities is by making sure that they get staffed by operatives or lobbyists, who have pledged their loyalty to him. Once vetted, these operatives and lobbyists can be counted on to conduct and participate in the established pattern of activities most beneficial to the mayor. It was announced last week that the purpose of the UPKNYC 501(c)(4) organization was to evolve from advancing the mayor's universal pre-kinder agenda to now being basically a blank check political apparatus. The interchangeability and permeability of these "instruments" staffed by loyalists form the basis of the "enterprise" that allows the mayor, from a phantasmal distance, to essentially order others to do his political bidding.

The mayor's political influence was extended across New York City after his administration installed the lobbying and consulting firm of Berlin Rosen, political operatives who worked on the mayor's campaign, in the media relations role of the mayor's universal pre-kinder initiative. Berlin Rosen maintained the universal pre-kinder messaging for the mayor this way. Berlin Rosen also serves as consultants to a coalition of major police reform groups, Communities United for Police Reform. The latter allows Berlin Rosen to again maintain the messaging coming from one of the mayor's most politically sensitive quarters : police reform activists. Tampering down police reform activists is all the more important to the mayor, especially after the NYPD continues to become embroiled in more racial profiled controversies. It was reported that another political insider and lobbying firm, Pitta Bishop, helped Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito with City Council staffing. In respect of City Council staffing, loyalists to the mayor being paid for by special interest donors act as gatekeepers for the mayor's agenda.

Left out in the lurch as a consequence of the mayor's machinations are voters, who had no say in what the messaging was that came out of the universal pre-kinder reform movement. As for other reform movements in New York City, political operatives staffing the political entities working to further the mayor's political ambitions will first check with the mayor before announcing what the reelection-friendly reforms the mayor can approve.

As the roles of money and lobbyists further corrupt government and fair elections, that corruption is only going to get worse, as New York state's campaign finance regulatory authority, the Board of Elections, has eliminated caps on political donations by individuals.

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