Monday, February 26, 2007

More News on Campaign Finance

Over the weekend, the New York Times ran a story on one of the many open secrets relating to New York's atrociously weak campaign finance laws: even after they have retired, politicians legally use campaign finance funds for personal matters (and what under any reasonable, non-legal interpretation would have to be termed "personal use.") Key quote:

New York’s campaign finance laws have been widely criticized by public interest groups as being riddled with loopholes that permit excessive contributions from special interests and inappropriate expenses by candidates. Over the years, the Board of Elections has lent its approval to candidates who wanted to spend money on car payments and repairs, baby-sitting expenses and luxury gifts, provided such expenses were somehow connected to political activities.

And what were the expenses "connected" to political activities incurred by these retired politicians? Dinners, wine, salaries to spouses, cell phone bills and car payments, among other things.

In other, somewhat related news, Capitol Confidential reports that five junior Assemblymembers -- Hakeem Jeffries and Karim Camara, of Brooklyn; Michele Titus, of Queens; Linda Rosenthal and Brian Kavanagh, of Manhattan -- have agreed to some self-imposed campaign finance restrictions:

The five will voluntarily restrict fundraising activities in the Albany area while the Legislaure is in session, prohibit contributions from employees of organizations that receive member items, ban the receipt of “soft money” cash and decline donations from Assembly employees.

It's a good start. Might we also suggest a restriction on the kind of personal use of campaign finance funds detailed in the New York Times on Saturday, which has also left the public deeply cynical about whose interest politicians in New York are really looking out for? And while we're at it, whither the other 145 members of the Assembly (or 62 members of the Senate)?

No comments: