Thursday, March 27, 2008

Lobbying Double Standards

There are two items in today's Crain's Insider that underscore the hypocrisy of those who inveigh against the "special interests." In the first one, the newsletter reports that the Environmental Defense Fund has failed to report its current lobbying activity to the Public Integrity Commission: "The Environmental Defense Fund, a leading backer of congestion pricing, has not registered as a lobbying client with the state. A spokeswoman says the group was not trying to hide its activities. “We thought we were doing it the right way, and we’re taking steps to correct it,” she says."

Now this is a so-called good government group, but when you strip aside the pretense all you'll find is what amounts to an ideological special interest, an interest that is so cloaked in self righteousness that it feels that it doesn't need to comply with the law. As one genuine good government person pints out: "Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, says EDF is just one of many nonprofits that don’t account for their lobbying. “The public needs to know about that activity,” he says."

Indeed it does; and the public also needs to know where all of the money-reportedly around $5000,000-is coming from to pay for all of EDF's congestion tax ads, money that is also a reportable lobbying expense. Sources tell us that the group was pauperized before all of the congestion controversy began.

Which brings us to Crains' second item-and what we believe is the long fiscal arm of our public spirited mayor. It appears that the pro-tax forces are out spending the opposition by what may be 20-1; and we should know, because the antis couldn't afford to continue to retain us in the fight. As Crain's points out: "Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan is gaining momentum, in part because of its lobbying advantage. One insider estimates that proponents have outspent
opponents by more than 10-to-1; another believes it is closer to 20-to-1. Well-heeled business interests have funded their own campaign, and environmental groups are flush with cash from foundations friendly with the mayor."

Now if this was a campaign that was mounted by business interests promoting business goals we believe that the press would be taking a much greater interest in the money trail. The saying goes, that all roads lead to Rome; in the case of the congestion tax, they all lead to 79th Street. Who's going to tackle this issue?