Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Big AdVance

Well, at least there's someone who believes in the concept of equal justice-new Manhattan DA Cy Vance has launched an investigation of the mayor's donation to the Independence Party. As Daily Politics points out: "The Manhattan DA is investigating a $750,000 personal campaign contribution made by Mayor Bloomberg to the state Independence Party and passed on to a campaign operative who has yet to fully account for how he spent the cash, sources confirm. The operative, John Haggerty Jr.,and state Independence Party Chairman Frank MacKay were slapped with subpoenas by Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office late last week."

Hallelujah, and say, "Amen!" Maybe now the Daily News will have some comment to make that doesn't make it seem that it is only concerned about the misdeeds of people of color. This whole episode stinks, but what really smells is the process that allows some rich dude to buy party support without all hell breaking loose.

When allegations of payoffs to Brooklyn Democrats were made about the mayoral campaign of Mark Green in 2001, DA Hynes went after it like a pit bull-and four years later was still at it. As the Times reported four years ago: "Last month, Mr. Green, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for attorney general, along with Andrew M. Cuomo, Charlie King and Sean Patrick Maloney, said in a televised interview that the Brooklyn district attorney's inquiry was done. Not so, according to the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes. ''Our investigation into how the literature was distributed and financed, and our investigation into the payment of the $245,000, is continuing,'' Mr. Hynes said in a statement yesterday."

And the entire episode keeps getting curiouser and curiouser. As the NY Times reports: "The legal ramifications of the transaction, reported Tuesday by The New York Post, are complicated and murky. The two $600,000 payments were made to the Independence Party’s housekeeping fund, the person with knowledge of the investigation said."

But why would John Haggerty-someone who is at odds with the local GOP in Queens-get to use, or keep, $750,000? "Campaign finance experts said the question in this case might be: Why exactly did Mr. Haggerty receive the money? If Mr. Haggerty was paid $750,000 only for work he did on the Bloomberg campaign, then the payment could be considered a campaign expenditure, experts said. If so, Mr. Bloomberg could be in violation of campaign finance laws because he did not list the payment as an expenditure on his disclosure reports, experts said."

And, of course, this is-as far as Bloomberg is concerned-only the tip of the iceberg. A full Barium enema accounting of how his charitable giving has flowed is needed in order to separate those groups-like Transportation Alternatives-that support the mayor on an issue for sake of principle; and those that have been stimulated to do so for less noble reasons.

It's time that our local media understand that the living large style of personal and charitable spending-self aggrandizement at its finest-that has characterized the Bloomberg era is as big a threat to democratic process as the sleazy activities of, say, a council member such as Larry Seabrook-who was accused yesterday of money laundering. In fact, it is actually greater since it transcends one individual and tends to thoroughly corrupt the entire system.