Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Santa Has Nothing On The NY City Council

Once a year, depending on whether you were naughty or nice, Santa comes to bestow presents on millions of children. His red suit is always clean and the reindeer are strong enough for the long haul, but he's never given us a campaign finance statement to show how he pays for it all. Down here in New York however, a paper trail exists for many City Council members that show that their "gifting" to special interest groups is rewarded with campaign contributions.

From The NY Daily News:

- City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) earmarked $150,000 for the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, whose board chairman raised at least $10,900 for her abortive mayoral campaign.

- City Councilmen Bill de Blasio and David Yassky, both Brooklyn Democrats, were co-sponsors of $145,000 for the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy for the past two fiscal years. Board members and the nonprofit's director raised $16,150 for de Blasio and $22,700 for Yassky in the same period.

- City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin (D-Manhattan) sponsored $15,000 for the private Gillen Brewer School on the upper East Side. Members of the school’s board contributed or raised $11,875 for her campaign.

- Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Brooklyn) collected 758 contributions for his $157,392 campaign fund - 23 came from employees of 12 organizations that raked in $113,000 in tax dollars he sponsored.

- Councilman John Liu (D-Queens) sponsored or co-sponsored $37,500 in Council funds for the Chinese-American Planning Council. He picked up $9,713 in checks from employees, board members and their spouses (up to $20,213 with matching funds).

It all adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from groups that got millions in taxpayer cash - more than $200,000 in contributions, or up to $467,000 with public matching dollars.

And those are just a few examples of this, as the Daily News calls it, being Santa with tips. Of course, none of the legislators mentioned would ever admit to engaging in quid pro quo, but every one of their advisers can quickly claim it is all legal. The fact that it is legal is the problem and especially that this activity is encouraged. Currently led by Christine Quinn, the ability to hand out and push other Council members for lulus is a tremendous exercise of power (not to mention the whole slush fund thing). She is supposed to be the example for the other fifty members and her actions dictate a less than reputable manner of behavior. So it shouldn't be too surprising that so many Council members think it is acceptable to play Santa while accepting handouts from the same people they give funding to.