An Uphill Fight To Curb The Pull Of New York City’s Lobbyists

NYC Council Member Ben Kallos argues that “The city should not be providing public dollars to amplify the already strong voices of special interests.”

Today’s New York Times features an article on Kallos’ effort to enact legislation to eliminate the matching contributions for money bundled by someone doing city business.  From Jim Dwyer’s column:

“The city rewards campaigns that receive many small contributions, allotting $6 in public money for every $1 donated, up to a total of $175. A person can give as much as $4,950, but only the first $175 is matched. The law has the virtue of making a relatively modest donation of $175 worth $1,225 to the candidate. It is a democratizing force.

Moreover, for people doing business with the city, nothing they give is matched with public dollars.

But there’s a side door. It is called bundling. When a lobbyist gathers donations from many people, the money is heaped together in a pile — the bundle — and while no individual donation can exceed the maximum, the lobbyist has done a major favor for the candidate. For instance, in the 2013 elections for the city’s top two elected offices, mayor and comptroller, nearly $1 million came in through 10 bundlers, most of them doing business with the city. In the mayor’s race, the top five gave about $600,000 to the campaign of Bill de Blasio, a Democrat; the five leading bundlers in theScott M. Stringer’s Democratic campaign for comptroller brought in $447,000. Altogether, bundlers gave $2.7 million to campaigns in the city.

The democratizing power of public financing is twisted in this process.”



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