Friday, July 11, 2008

Campaigning Double Standards

Once again the city's new campaign finance law is coming under fire. Already the subject of a lawsuit that challenges its constitutionality, the law is now being questioned by one of its sponsors. This case of buyer's remorse is detailed in today's NY Sun: "A City Council member who helped pass the city's new campaign finance rules is now trying to roll back a key component of the effort to crack down on political donations from lobbyists and business owners.
Council Member Peter Vallone Jr., a Democrat of Queens, said he is proposing to amend the campaign finance rules so that political candidates would no longer be required to ask contributors to disclose their relationship with the city when making a donation."

Of course, the real disparity here is the way in which business and labor are treated separately. As the Sun points out: "His amendment proposal is poised to become the latest attack on the rules, which have been called the toughest in the nation. Opponents of the legislation say it favors candidates who collect contributions from unions, which are exempt from the rules, and punish those who are supported by businesses and developers."

Which it certainly does. Our view is that there should be limits that apply equally to all, and since labor has a tremendous influence in city politics, it shouldn't be exempted from any campaign law that restricts others. In our view, all interests are special and none should be more special than others.

The NY Post editorializes on this issue morning, commenting on the attempt by Melinda Katz to find a loophole in the application of the current law: "Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D- Queens), a candidate for city comptroller next year, tried to skirt the city's selectively restrictive campaign-finance laws. She failed - but good for her, anyway...Because that tough new campaign-finance law - which is supposed to end pay-to-play in New York - doesn't apply at all to labor unions. Unlike business and industry, their donations weren't cut back in the slightest.
Never mind that they're the top organized contributors to city candidates. Or that they arguably do more business with the city than anyone else. This means that candidates who sell themselves to the unions are substantially better off than those who, like Katz, sell themselves to industry. True, when you've got a joke of a campaign-finance law, you've got to expect more than a little funny business. But fair's fair. Katz should sue."

The goal of campaign finance reform should be greater transparency-voters should know who's contributing so that they can better understand the interests that each candidate may be favoring. An unlevel playing field is, well, unfair, and the mayor and the speaker should insure that the rules apply equally to all the players in the system.