Corruption, unfortunately, has dominated the headlines in New York and the reaction has been the normal knee-jerk let us pour money into the problem. The Conservative Party of New York State issued the following legislative memo to the Members of the Legislature, reminding them that the NYC model of campaign financing has not resolved corruption; rather it encourages the abuse of public funds. The memo follows:
In September 2011, Jason Farrell published a report for the Center for Competitive Politics that showed how a number of candidates and their associates, in New York City, Maine and Arizona willfully abuse the campaign finance system, exploit loopholes ensuring they can keep much of their donation money off the books, and once in office, often further abuse public funds and even find themselves under investigation for criminal conduct. The abuse of public funds is so severe and the record of corrupt practices and other misdeeds are so rampant, particularly in the city of New York (emphasis added), that such a system cannot possibly live up to the "clean" moniker that has been assigned to it by proponents.
In fact, the NYC Campaign Finance Board, in a 2003 report lamented it had come up short in its goals, and that was long before the Data and Field Services Scandal of 2009 which was four years after the CFB investigated the well documented New York's Health and Human Services Union, 1199/SEIU, AFL-CIO involvement with Fernando Ferrer's 2005 mayoral campaign.
The full report can be read here. It should be noted that in the 10 years the report covers, public funds granted to "clean elections" candidates who were investigated for abuses was $13,924,189. That amount is on the total for those investigated for abuses, not the total amount of taxpayer dollars used to fund New York City elections.
Good government groups, like Common Cause and NYPIRG, have long called for campaign finance reform by instituting public financing of campaigns however, they ignore the abuses found in publicly-funded campaigns.
In a time when New York is facing deficits and may be unable to meet its constitutional obligations why would anyone consider forcing the public to pay additional taxes to fund campaigns they do not support and are wide open to abuses.
Public funding of campaigns is a bad idea...it allows fringe candidates to qualify for matching funds...or straw candidates to run to allow another candidate to qualify for matching funds. Fundraising is never easy, but fundraising keeps the candidate in touch with the constituent. Matching funds allows candidates to remain out of touch with constituents and gives the advantage to the incumbent.
If a candidate has good ideas, the public will support them. Full and complete disclosure lets the public be aware of any potential conflicts. If ordinary citizens object to the use of campaign funds that they have donated, they will stop supporting the candidate.
The Conservative Party of New York State urges the Members of the Legislature to be transparent by appealing to your constituents and not simply reaching into their pocket and taking more of their money.