Friday, July 27, 2012

A Torrent of Cash

Once again our local papers are singling-out local subsidized housing developers for giving big bucks to elected officials. The THR's Steve Israel several days ago had a piece regarding the political contributions of Jonah Mandlebaum (Warwick Properties), Steve Aaron (Rivergate Development) and Hal Teitelbaum (Crystal Run). It turns out that each has given the maximum contribution, $60k, to Andrew Cuomo, which in some cases includes a second $60k from the spouse. The article then quotes Bill Mahoney of the NY Public Interest Research Group. "Hopefully, before his term is up, Cuomo will actually take some action," regarding these contributions, Mahoney say in the piece.

But guess what? You ain't seen nothing yet when it comes to cash having an influence over our electoral process, at least when it comes to federal races. The Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court has opened up the spigots to such a degree that outside groups (those not directly connected with a candidate's campaign) can spend virtually any amount of money -- and without having to disclose its origins -- to the point where as much as $2 billion will be spent on this year's presidential race, alone. This amount will no doubt increase as the years go by.

And I can understand NYPIRG's well-intentioned attempts to level the playing field, even if I think it's a quixotic effort. The way things are now, states have a large say in how they conduct elections on the local level. So maybe it'll be possible to have multibillion-dollar federal races, while at the same time we have sparsely funded local and state races. But this seems unlikely. In fact, it's far more likely that over the long run states will have no choice but to follow the federal lead on campaign finance. It's going to be a cash bonanza for all who are involved, Democrat, Republican, and third parties.

In politics, for now, money = speech. For Israel to take issue with completely legal activity, and as a member of a paper whose parent company (News Corp, Fox News, etc) applauded the supreme court verdict, seems a bit hypocritical. And let's not forget that the THR will happily cash the checks of elected officials who want to advertize in the paper.

And, just for a quick note, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, reported to be the 14th richest person in the world, spent at least $5 million on an independent campaign for New Gingrich during the GOP primary (a lot of good it did him), and indicated that he was willing to spend upwards of $100 million to see the former Speaker of the House become president. And this is just one billionaire. There are lots of others out there who also have business to conduct. They too will no doubt spend lavishly to get what they want.

Everyone better get used to this, because it's going to be with us for some time.


  1. Just because pay to play is legal doesn't mean it's right. In fact, something is seriously wrong when businessmen can give generously for the chance to be heard by the governor but refuse to pay taxes or be decent community citizens.

    1. I agree. But the law is what it is. So we shouldn't be surprised when we're confronted with the lowest common denominator.