Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Atlantic Yards Campaign Finance Exception?

Given the recent publicity about the large amounts of cash transferred from real estate interests to New York campaign accounts, it should surprise no one that Forest City Ratner (developer of the controversial "Atlantic Yards" project in Brooklyn) has recently given a whole lot of money to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee.

But $58,420? Doesn't this run afoul of state limits on campagin contributions from corporations? No, it does not. As we noted in our report on New York's "paper thin" campaign finance laws, New York's contribution limits are riddled with exceptions. Corporations in New York may give no more than $5,000 to a candidate -- though an unlimited number of subsidiaries can each give $5,000 as well. And corporations are not limited by any amount for what they can give to political parties' "housekeeping accounts." So $58,420 in so-called "soft money" is just fine.

We're sure this very large check has nothing to do with the ongoing legal and political battles surrounding Atlantic Yards. And we're sure that this large check will not influence any politicians should they need to consider controversies around Atlantic Yards in the coming months and years. All the same, wouldn't it be nice if we had real limits on corporate campaign contributions, so that we could avoid even the appearance of buying influence?

1 comment:

MDDW said...

So Forest City Ratner gives $58,420 "soft money" donation to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee's Housekeeping account and neither Sheldon Silver nor his office will return phone calls or e-mail from WNYC’s reporter Matt Schuerman? (See Link below.)

So you are a fly on the wall in Sheldon Silver’s office:

An aide worries about returning the communications from Schuerman before the WNYC story runs. “$58,420? Don’t worry we need to say something?”

“Don’t worry,” says Silver: “It’s a one-day story. We’ve got the money. It will blow over in a day. Then nobody's ever going to remember or think about it again."

The Brennen Center assesses “We're sure this very large check has nothing to do with the ongoing legal and political battles surrounding Atlantic Yards.” Tongue in cheek or not, how much more humorously inaccurate does this assessment seem when Mr. Silver stonewalls and won’t return phone calls? (This will have some died-in-the-wool-democrats thinking in two-party terms.)

We need to call upon all politicians to be effective in doing the right thing on Atlantic Yards which means recovering the many hundreds of millions of dollars being improperly spent on it without proper competitive bid and having a smaller properly designed project awarded to multiple developers by competitive bid without eminent domain abuse. Ratner’s $58,420 "to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee should not prevent that.

Developer's Donation Raises Eyebrows
by Matthew Schuerman.