Money in Politics in New York: Week of May 18th

May 18, 2012

Reposted with permission from The Brennan Center. Money in Politics is a series which regularly compiles the latest news concerning the corrosive nature of money in New York State politics — and the ongoing need for public financing and robust campaign finance reform.

1. WYNC touts the findings from the new joint report by the Brennan Center and the Campaign Finance Institute, Donor Diversity Through Public Matching Funds. A significantly greater number of small donors contributed to campaigns in New York City, which matches donations of less than $175 at a six-to-one ratio, than contributed to state-level elections, where no matching exists. The results also evidence greater participation by minorities and low-income individuals under New York City’s public matching fund system. The report notes the ongoing campaign to institute a similar system for New York State elections, suggesting that small donor public financing could increase the diversity of the donor base for state elections.

2. Super PACs are already dominating this federal election cycle, and an article from Crain’s New York Business suggests they may play a major role in New York City elections as well. “There will be super PACs,” said New York Republican State Committee Chairman Ed Cox. “It’s impossible not to have them. They’re a part of the process now.” Such organizations could put unlimited dollars behind policy issues or mayoral candidates, according to some sources. Nonetheless, heightened disclosure requirements and a vigilant city Campaign Finance Board, according to the Board’s former general counsel, Laurence Laufer, may mean that these organizations work within greater restraints in New York City than at the federal level.

3. After more than a decade of accusations of misusing public funds, the law has finally caught up with the former New York State Senator Pedro Espada. A federal jury convicted Espada of four counts of theft, and he now faces up to forty years in prison. The charges stemmed from Espada’s unlawful use of over $400,000 belonging to a health clinic he helped found in 1978. Espada became known statewide in 2009 after taking part in a coup against party leadership shortly after the Democrats gained a narrow majority in the Senate. Two other Senators involved in that political turmoil – Hiram Monserrate and Carl Kruger – recently pleaded guilty to separate corruption charges.