Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/305 Thu, 19 Oct 2017 14:58:44 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) On the Bus to Albany for Better New York Voting Laws http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6916:on-the-bus-to-albany-for-better-new-york-voting-laws http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6916:on-the-bus-to-albany-for-better-new-york-voting-laws vote better ny lobbyist via nyc votes

One Vote Better NY lobbyist (photo: @NYCVotes)


Two charter buses idling in downtown Manhattan in the early hours of the morning on a weekday would usually be full of mismatched tourists from far-flung states and countries, waiting to gape at the Wall Street bull and his recently-placed female antagonist.

That was not the case for the buses that departed Church Street this past Tuesday morning, which, like their counterpart departing from the Bronx, were full of New Yorkers headed to Albany with a very specific mission: pushing legislators to adopt voting reforms that would make it easier for people to cast their ballots.

The group of about 150 activists, students, and assorted concerned citizens from Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Syracuse had risen at an hour when most fellow city-dwellers were still sound asleep, steeled themselves with coffee and muffins, and traveled to the state capital as part of the “Vote Better NY” campaign. The effort -- now an annual lobbying day -- was organized by the New York City Campaign Finance Board’s “NYC Votes” initiative, which partnered with schools and civic organizations like Dominicanos USA, CUNY, and the recently founded high school progressive group Coalition Z.

Chloe Baker, 21, a junior studying history at Queens College and interning at the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), felt that the trip’s intent was to “get the legislators thinking about [voting reform], and remind them that they work for us,” a sentiment echoed by many of her fellow volunteers.

It’s the fourth year of the annual pilgrimage (Gotham Gazette was also along for the last two). To the chagrin of organizers, the objectives this year are the same as they were the first: to change the laws around voting so that citizens can more easily register and stay registered, and find it more feasible to actually vote once registered.

Those goals are put forward in proposals included in four bills introduced to the Democratically-controlled State Assembly -- they would need passage there, then in the state Senate, and to be signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The New York Votes and Voter Empowerment Acts, sponsored by Democrats Michael Cusick of Staten Island and Brian Kavanagh of Manhattan, have some similar language; both would permit pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds and allow government agencies like housing authorities to automatically forward voter information for registration.

New York Votes would additionally establish same-day registration with a constitutional amendment (it isn’t permitted under the current state constitution), open polls two weeks before elections for what is known as “early voting,” expand absentee voting, and boost polling place resources and training. Voter Empowerment would establish online voter registration through the Board of Elections and automatically update registration information.

A separate early voting bill, also sponsored by Kavanagh, would, in its current version, establish an early-voting window beginning eight days before an election.

Finally, the so-called preclearance bill, sponsored by Brooklyn Democrat Latrice Walker, would seek to replicate some of the controls previously contained in the Voting Rights Act before it was gutted by the Supreme Court. Counties where 10 percent of the population are racial or language minorities or which have been found to have denied voting rights to protected populations would need to submit any changes in voting-related practical or policy changes to the Attorney General’s office for approval.

The early voting and voter empowerment bills both have versions in the Republican-controlled Senate. The former, sponsored by Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, was passed through the election committee and has been sent over to the local government committee. The latter, sponsored by Queens Democrat Michael Gianaris, was voted down, 6-3, in the elections committee less than 24 hours before the activists boarded their buses, including a “nay” vote by one of its own sponsors, Queens Democrat and Independent Democratic Conference member Tony Avella.

Yet what would seem like a deflating defeat was received with cautious optimism by activists, who are happy that the leadership in the Senate -- “where these bills go to die,” was how one NYC Votes staffer put it -- were even publicly acknowledging the ideas.

“Having [Senate Majority Leader John] Flanagan even talking about wanting to know the cost of it is a change in the right direction. Last year it would have been a flat ‘no,’” said Onida Coward Mayers, the NYCCFB director of voter assistance, referring to the Suffolk County Republican’s recent comments citing the potential cost of early voting, while leaving the door open to continued conversations on reform.

The day’s activities began with a rally held by legislators and advocates on the steps of the Capitol building’s famed “Million Dollar Staircase,” where it was moved after rain scuttled plans to hold it in Lafayette Park. After that, the group splintered into 11 teams, each with its own schedule of meetings; the idea was to try to have each legislator who had been open to a meeting hear from at least one of his or her own constituents. “They’re much more interested if it’s someone from their community, because they know that person represents many more at home,” explained Coward Mayers.

The group Gotham Gazette trailed soon found itself in the imposingly bright and bustling Legislative Office Building, where hordes of staffers, lobbyists, and activists tried hard not to run into each other as they shuffled between meetings. First on the group’s schedule was Senator Roxanne Persaud, who had to run out but left an aide, who asked not to be identified, to speak with the six-person delegation. The Brooklyn legislator is one of a handful of Senate mainline Democrats who have not sponsored both of the Senate bills. No Republicans have signed on.

As Amanda Melillo, public affairs officer at NYCCFB, explained that multi-hour lines dissuaded voters from participating in elections, the staffer nodded and spoke of her own experience during last year’s presidential election, saying, “I was out there, I saw the last-minute rush. I understand.” While she couldn’t quite commit to the senator sponsoring the bill, she promised to discuss it with her boss, and ended with the hope that “when we meet next year, it’ll be better.”

A cramped elevator ride and brisk walk through halogen-lit hallways deposited the group at the office of Brooklyn Senator Jesse Hamilton, who greeted Coward Mayers with a hug and spent a few minutes posing for photographs with the activists. Hamilton and his seven colleagues in the IDC, a group that forms a governing coalition with Senate Republicans, are crucial to pushing through the bills that still have a chance in this legislative session, which runs through mid-June.

The group quickly scored their first clear success: Melillo explained the intent of the preclearance measure and had not quite finished asking Hamilton to introduce it in the Senate before he piped up with, “I can do that, that’s not a problem.”

He was a bit less receptive when the volunteers raised the issue of early voting. When Bella Wang, a 26-year-old PhD student at Princeton and former poll worker, brought up voters waiting “one to three hours” to get their ballot, Hamilton said that “that’s only in presidential elections that you get three hours.”

Wendy Odle-Harvey, a volunteer in her fifties whose family moved to Brooklyn from Barbados in the 1970s, chimed in to say that if people vote in any election to find long lines and voting machine problems, they “don’t want to come out to vote for senator, for local races.”

Hamilton promised to look a the bill, but told the group that they’d be best served by “talking to the Republicans, because you’re preaching to the choir.”

Case in point, the group’s next scheduled meeting was with Republican Senator Marty Golden, of Brooklyn, who quickly got into a back-and-forth with Wang when she stated that people with oddly-spelled and hyphenated names often find themselves left off the voter rolls due to human error.

“We have people with names, hyphenated or not hyphenated, voting in several elections” he said, and asserted that there were “people bused in from the Bronx and Westchester to vote in Brooklyn races.” Wang shot back that you were more likely to be “crushed by furniture” than to commit voter fraud, a claim that Golden vigorously disputed. While there have been sporadic claims of voter fraud in New York, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman declared earlier this year that there was not one substantiated incident of voter fraud in New York in 2016.

As Melillo ticked off reasons why New York’s voter turnout is so low - 41st out of the 50 states in the 2016 general election, with 57 percent turnout - Golden asked if it couldn’t be that “people don’t care,” and argued that high immigrant populations and cultural differences led to low turnout in some districts, pointing to “Palestinian and Arab communities” in his own constituency. “Do they vote? No,” he said.

Despite the disagreements, Golden conceded that improvements could be made to the state’s voting procedures, saying “there are a couple of things we can do to help people register and vote, and I’m open to that,” and agreeing to consider the bills. He threw out some of his own ideas, such as making poll workers’ pay non-taxable and getting the MTA to provide expanded service on election days.

Asked about the probability that he would support any of the bills were they to come to a vote, he said “our leader is having conversations about the bill,” but declined to definitively take a position.

Downstairs in the building’s cafeteria, past a group of Army personnel manning a series of small tables covered in military equipment as part of something called Fort Drum Day, the activists took a breather.

“I didn’t really know what to expect…Say ‘I’m a constituent’ and maybe they’ll listen more, but there are a lot of groups here, so sometimes it feels like lip service,” said Natasha Padilla, 38, a Brooklynite who had taken a vacation day to go on the trip, as a group of people in bright green shirts emblazoned with the Airbnb logo chatted quietly 10 feet away.

The final meeting of the day for the group Gotham Gazette followed took its members back through the packed elevators with the electronic voice and to the office of Brooklyn Assembly Member Peter Abbate Jr., who was not available. Aide Joe Brady took his place for a quick discussion that largely consisted of Brady agreeing that there were issues with voting and pledging to discuss the proposals with the Assembly member.

The issue of voting reform is a particularly sensitive one for legislators, Coward Mayers said, because it “taps into their livelihoods. They want to be safeguarded.” If successful, the reforms would shift their voter base, empowering a whole slate of people previously not involved in politics. That prospect can be frightening to elected officials that can pretty much predict the comfortable margin they’ll be reelected with under the current system. Incumbents in New York, where there are no term limits for state legislators, do very well election after election, often running unopposed or with nominal opposition.

For the activists who gave up their weekday to show up at their doorstep, the legislators’ reticence is understandable but misplaced. With “a few million dollars in a multibillion dollar budget,” as Melillo put it, they could bring hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers into the political process. (The state budget that was recently passed totals $153.1 billion in operating funds.)

In a telling exchange with Senator Hamilton, Wang, the PhD student, brought up Minnesota, a state with same-day registration and early voting that also happens to have had the highest percentage turnout in 2016 elections. As Hamilton began to speculate about the reasons Minnesotans may simply have a greater interest in voting, Padilla cut him off.

“They got their people to vote. And it’s really cold there,” she said.

***
by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

]]>
On the Bus to Albany for Better New York Voting Laws Sun, 07 May 2017 04:00:00 +0000
State Electeds Insult City Criminal Justice While Reform in Albany is Minimal at Best http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6837:state-electeds-insult-city-criminal-justice-while-reform-in-albany-is-minimal-at-best http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6837:state-electeds-insult-city-criminal-justice-while-reform-in-albany-is-minimal-at-best Cuomo prison break

Gov. Cuomo at Dannemora correctional facility (photo: Governor's Office)


Last week, State Senator Jesse Hamilton mailed a flier to his constituents strongly denouncing broken windows policing. The senator, who represents Crown Heights and surrounding neighborhoods in Brooklyn, called on the city to end arrests for minor quality-of-life offenses that “are often used to police black and brown bodies.”

The week before, during a speech in Manhattan, Governor Cuomo disparaged Mayor de Blasio for failing to close the notorious Rikers Island jail, accusing the mayor of “impotence.”

These criticisms of the city come as the state government, led by Cuomo, struggles to make its own reforms to New York’s criminal justice system. Current state budget negotiations include a push to “raise the age” of criminal responsibility so that 16- and 17-year-olds are largely prosecuted as juveniles, not adults. But the measure, which is seeing new daylight this year, has faced strong opposition from Senate Republicans for years, despite the fact that New York is now one of just two states that tries 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.

Senate Republicans want teenagers charged with violent crimes to be tried as adults and they want all 16- and 17-year-olds tried in criminal, not family, court.  

The Republican Conference holds a plurality in the Senate—and the power that comes with it—in part because Senator Hamilton and the seven other members of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) do not caucus with the Democrats. Nominal “Democrat” Senator Simcha Felder caucuses with Republicans, giving the GOP a 32-seat bare majority in the 63-seat chamber.

But Senator Hamilton says that far from diluting the “raise the age” effort, his position in the IDC empowers progressive reform like it. “I, along with my colleagues in the IDC, have pushed Raise the Age further than ever before in the New York State Senate,” he said. “My advocacy around broken windows policing is motivated by my support for Raise the Age.”

For their part, city officials are defending their approach and pointing the finger back at the state. At a recent press conference, Mayor de Blasio was asked about Cuomo’s Rikers comments, and said, “Our job is to address this crisis [on Rikers Island]. We’ve been doing it for three straight years…The state’s job is to take care of the state prison system."

City Council Member Carlos Menchaca exchanged sharp words with Senator Hamilton on Twitter, asking him, “What law are you advancing at the state level to curb the impact of Broken Windows policing?”

Since that exchange, Senator Hamilton has introduced a bill to make turnstile jumping -- perhaps the prototypical broken windows offense -- a violation instead of a misdemeanor. Evading the subway fare is a charge the NYPD disproportionately brings against young black and Latino New Yorkers. Since city police enforce state laws, that is one avenue state legislators could use to influence city criminal justice.

Senator Hamilton, who is black, spoke of his son as a motivation for opposing broken windows policing and for supporting raising the age. “He’s at an age where ‘the talk’—about young black men, safety, and interactions with police—is not an abstraction.”

If the state raises the age of criminal responsibility, it will be the first major criminal justice reform legislation since the law ending the shackling of pregnant inmates in 2015. Executive action on prison reform has also slowed recently. After closing 13 prisons in his first term, Governor Cuomo has not closed any since 2013, even while the state prison population has continued to decline.

Last year, the governor also vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have increased funding to public defenders in the state. Cuomo insists he’s open to similar legislation but that it must be done through the budget.

And a New York Times report about rampant racial bias in New York State’s parole system led Cuomo to launch an investigation, but no findings have been made public and the parole system is unchanged.

Parole reform is on the list of criminal justice changes that advocates have long hoped New York State would take up. The list also includes reform to the bail system, ending the use of solitary confinement, and a bill to accelerate trials. Republican control of the Senate, aided by the IDC, makes further reforms less likely.

“The speedy trial bill, Kalief’s Law, should be a no-brainer,” said gabriel sayegh*, the Co-Executive Director of Katal, an organization fighting mass incarceration. “It would reduce pre-trial detention in jails.” The bill passed the Assembly unanimously, but has stalled in the Senate. “Even common sense bills that have bi-partisan support don’t get done,” sayegh said.

“I don’t think it’s a problem when state folks speak out on city issues, or vice versa,” continued sayegh. “We are eager to have the governor support the speedy trial bill, which would help us close Rikers. We want to see Senator Hamilton follow through by advancing legislation at the state level that addresses disparities in policing practices and arrests. They should connect their comments to action.”

***
Brenden Beck is a PhD candidate in sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center researching police, suburbs, inequality, and housing. On Twitter @BrendenBeck.

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

*sayegh spells his name with all lowercase letters

]]>
State Electeds Insult City Criminal Justice While Reform in Albany is Minimal at Best Tue, 28 Mar 2017 04:00:00 +0000
The New York City Campaign Finance Board and Its Scofflaws http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6561:the-new-york-city-campaign-finance-board-and-its-scofflaws http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6561:the-new-york-city-campaign-finance-board-and-its-scofflaws cfb website grab 

the NYC CFB website


On September 15, the city's Campaign Finance Board announced the latest round of fines coming out of the city election cycle that wrapped up nearly three years ago. The board penalized candidates from six unsuccessful campaigns -- for City Council, Public Advocate and the Mayor’s Office.

The board found that Joel Bauza, a candidate for City Council in District 15, owed $350 for failing to file disclosure statements, late filing of disclosures, and for failing to document an in-kind contribution. Sean Henry, who ran for the District 42 City Council seat, was slapped with a $850 fine and also told to repay $23,993 in public matching funds received from the CFB. The board fined Catherine Guerriero, who ran for Public Advocate, $5,539 for seven violations, with the largest penalties for accepting contributions over the legal limit. And former mayoral candidate George McDonald was ordered to pay a whopping $34,350 for accepting over-the-limit contributions.

If the past is a guide, most of these former candidates will cut the Campaign Finance Board a check and close the book on the campaign. A handful, however, may carry an IOU for years.

According to CFB records, as of August 23, some 77 people owe a combined $2.16 million in fines or required repayment of public financing. Repayment of public funds accounted for $1.59 million of that amount. Given the hundreds of candidates who have participated in the city's pioneering and complex campaign finance system — which requires broad disclosure, offers generous public matching funds and restricts fundraising and campaign spending — and the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been raised and spent since that apparatus was launched in 1989, the overdue list is fairly small.

The list includes long-shot candidates who haven't been heard from since their bid for public office ended. But Assembly Member David Weprin, State Senator Jesse Hamilton, City Council Member Andrew King, and Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Diana Reyna are on the roster as well.

McDonald looks set to join that list. Head of the prominent nonprofit The Doe Fund, he claims his violations were the result of following state campaign finance law, which has more permissible limits for campaign contributions. He screamed at the CFB during its public hearing on his campaign fundraising, claiming he’d never pay the amount assessed.

That list of 77 CFB debtors includes candidates who owe fines from as far back as the 2001 election cycle, suggesting that the board's enforcement tools could be sharper. At the same time, the presence of prominent names on the roster suggests that, for better or worse, CFB fines and repayments incurred through races gone by may shape future elections.

*   *   *   *

Crafted in response to municipal corruption scandals during the Koch administration and drastic disparities in candidate spending election cycle after cycle, the city's campaign finance law limits the sizes of campaign donations and requires detailed disclosure of where candidates' money comes from and where it goes. It also offers candidates a chance at public financing: If a campaign collects a threshold amount of money from a minimum number of donors, and agrees to a cap on total campaign spending, the board will match with taxpayer money some portion of the contributions the campaign collects from New York City residents.

Along with the introduction of term limits in 2001, the public campaign finance system is credited with permitting dozens of political newcomers to mount credible campaigns for elected office in New York City. In the 2013 cycle, the board sent a combined $38.2 million in public funds to 149 campaigns; private donations to city campaigns in that cycle totaled $95 million.

The campaign-finance system's twin missions of preventing corruption and using public financing to foster a more equal playing field lend themselves to strict rules about which entities can donate, how much can be accepted by campaigns, how campaign money can be spent, and the manner in which all of it is recorded and submitted to the board. To ensure compliance with those rules, the board regularly monitors campaign accounts, particularly for candidates who choose to participate in the public matching funds program. In September, a candidate from a 2015 City Council special election in Queens was indicted for reporting fake donations in order to receive public matching funds. She was charged following a routine compliance visit by CFB personnel.

"This is an example of how the CFB's rigorous audits help protect the public matching funds that ensure New Yorkers get elections focused on their interests, and not those of deep-pocketed special interests,” said Amy Loprest, CFB executive director, in a public statement after the indictment. “City taxpayers should be aware that the CFB discovered the alleged fraud and that no public funds were ever paid to this candidate.”

The board also conducts extensive audits of every campaign once the election is over — a process that can take CFB staff years to complete. After an audit is complete, the board holds a public hearing where candidates may appear with legal representation to explain the circumstances of any possible violations or to dispute a finding by CFB attorneys. After hearing the case, the board votes on how to address the missteps identified during the review.

The most common violations it finds are accepting corporate contributions, accepting over-the-limit contributions, making improper post-election expenditures, or filing disclosure statements late.

For violations of the rules, the CFB can impose fines ranging from $100 to several thousand dollars per violation. Candidates and treasurers can also be held personally liable for those penalties. In the 2009 campaign, for instance, 89 of 232 campaigns were told to pay penalties. The median penalty amount for that cycle was $3,786.

The board can also order a campaign to return public financing that the board deems the campaign did not qualify to use. Of the 140 campaigns that received public funds in 2013, 87 were ordered to repay more than $1.5 million of the $38 million that was dispensed.

Campaigns that have money left over can use it to pay fines, but sometimes — particularly when large repayments of public funds are ordered — there is nothing left. The availability of public financing means city campaigns are now attracting true political novices — a healthy thing for democracy, but a complicating factor when it comes to collecting major fines. Some candidates simply don't have the savings or income needed to pay their debts. Others might just decide not to pay, even though they could.

In its penalty letter to a candidate, the board typically gives 30 days for fines to be paid. If a candidate fails to pay fines or repay public funds, their name and the unpaid amount are posted to the CFB website. A candidate can choose to negotiate a payment plan with the board, in which case his or her name is not posted.

A candidate may also choose to challenge the board’s decision in New York State Supreme Court within four months through what is called an Article 78 proceeding. These appeals, which are usually resolved within a year, largely go in favor of the CFB.

Conversely, if violators do not pay fines, the board can sue them in civil court and obtain a judgement. In those cases, the board can put a lien on a candidate’s property and can garnish their wages. Court records indicate that since 1992 the CFB has sought court judgements against more than two dozen candidates, and often succeeded.

Under a 2005 court decision, however, the board has less latitude when it comes to getting public funds repaid. While candidates are liable for fines, campaign committees are responsible for repaying public funds -- and committees often disband or run out of money before those funds can be paid back. The City Council later codified the thrust of the 2005 decision into law, tying the CFB’s hands. Pending repayments, not fines, count for a majority of the funds due to the CFB.

The board does still have some leverage, however, against candidates who may want to run in a future election: individuals are unable to receive public funds if they have any pending fines or repayments left.

“Candidates who owe penalties or public funds to the CFB are ineligible to receive future payments, which provides an effective incentive for candidates to fulfill their obligations,” Loprest said in a statement to Gotham Gazette and City Limits. “Information about candidates’ outstanding obligations is publicly available on our website, so voters can hold candidates accountable for the conduct of their campaigns. Beyond that, the CFB makes every effort to collect the penalties and public funds repayments that candidates owe.”

And to make it known that those IOUs areout there. The overdue amounts are public knowledge. “We don’t write things off or forgive liabilities,” said a CFB spokesperson. “That’s part of the accountability of the program.”

*   *   *   *

Sixty-three former candidates currently owe penalties to the board; the largest overdue amount belongs to Felipe Luciano, an East Harlem community activist and journalist who racked up more than $54,000 in violations when he ran for City Council District 8 in 2005. Luciano was also a participant in the public matching funds program and was told to repay nearly $17,000.

Also prominent on the list: Miguel Martinez, the one-time Upper Manhattan Council member who went to federal prison over a scandal dealing with stolen city money.

When it comes to public funds repayment, Asembly Member Weprin's tab dwarfs all others: $319,700. The next highest is Brooklyn Deputy Borough President Reyna, who owes a repayment of $139,000. Martinez also owes the board substantial public funds repayments. Those three, along with 2001 City Council candidate Garth Marchant, represent the four largest debts to the CFB — comprising 36 percent of what the board is owed.

MORE: Who Owes Money to the City Campaign Finance Board

Weprin was assessed a substantial penalty for the conduct of his 2009 campaign for city comptroller. An investment banker by trade who chaired the City Council's Finance Committee during his tenure there, Weprin was assessed $28,000 in penalties for violations like accepting money from unregistered PACs or taking over-the-limit contributions. He paid those penalties. “The Assemblyman is committed to a fair election process and the responsible use of CFB funds,” wrote a spokesperson for Weprin, Sumeet Sharma, in response to questions.

But the public funds repayment of $319,700 is still due. That stems from Weprin’s campaign opening a so-called segregated account, which is supposed to be used for expenses that public funds can’t be used on, like to make donations to other candidates or to pay debt from a previous election. The CFB concluded that Weprin’s 2009 campaign had deposited into that segregated account donations that were matched with public funds. It ordered the campaign to repay the matching funds associated with those donations. But by then, all the campaign’s money had been spent.

Asked about the board’s findings, Weprin spokesperson Sharm told City Limits: “In 2010, after the Committee ceased to exist, the CFB made technical revisions to funds that were originally declared as valid contributions, deeming valid contributions as invalid. These repayments were requested one year after the end of the campaign and after the Committee was disbanded,” addding that “the Assemblyman does not agree with all of the determinations of the CFB as these funds were spent on campaign related expenses.”

The amount owed by the 2009 campaign represents an undeniable obstacle to Weprin seeking municipal office again. In 2015, when David Weprin’s brother Mark gave up his City Council seat to take a state post, David Weprin notably did not vy to replace him--perhaps because he would have had to pay off his CFB debt if he wished to tap into public financing for such a campaign.

“The CFB determined that these funds would have to be repaid by the Committee if David Weprin was to seek City Office,” Sharma wrote. “And althoughAssemblyman Weprin is committed to the overall mission of the CFB and will address any repayments if he does seek an office for the City of New York in the future.”

*  *  *  *

The fines don’t seem to discourage people from seeking public funds to run campaigns. In the 2013 election, 92 percent of candidates on the primary ballot participated in the program, according to CFB data.

But some candidates do complain that the CFB’s disclosure and documentation requirements are severe and that the auditing process is long and drawn out. As is evident from the latest hearing, even though the CFB has about 50 employees, nearly half the agency, working full-time to audit campaigns, the process can take years.

“I’m a little bothered at the fact that three years later I’m still being called in,” Joel Bauza told Gotham Gazette after making his case to the CFB, “the treasurer is still being called in…to answer questions on stuff that we submitted on time and we gave to them the reasons. I don’t see the difference on what was written and what was said today.”

Bauza also chose not to participate in the public matching funds program because of its “tedious” documentation requirements, a decision he said was made at the advice of State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. Bauza did praise the CFB for being informative and helpful during the entire process but insisted that there is room to improve. “I think there’s a lot of little tedious things, a lot of things that they need to look at again,” he said. “What they’re going to be questioning...Items that are noticeable where large amounts of contributions are made. Talk about those things, but little things...You’re going into the little things that don’t really make sense.”

To its credit, the CFB carefully examines systemic issues after each election, proposes reforms to be enacted through legislation, and does routine updates to its rules. In September, the board proposed a number of rules changes that would, in part, make it easier for candidates to run their campaigns. The board invited feedback that was heard at the September 15 meeting and will now consider that before approving the changes.

Sean Henry, who ran in 2013 and did avail of the public financing program, shared some of Bauza’s views on the CFB. “I think sometimes the compliance requirements are little bit too onerous,” he told Gotham Gazette. “Campaigns are small. Especially when you start, you don’t have a lot of people. I think some of the documentation is not necessary. I think there are easier ways that things can be done.”

He did say, though, that the CFB was “efficient” and “fair” to his campaign and in helping his people navigate the public funds program, and that he wasn’t entirely deterred from participating again. “It’s a good way for candidates to get involved in the process,” he said.

NUMBERS: Who Owes Money to the City Campaign Finance Board, at City Limits

***
by Samar Khurshid of Gotham Gazette and Jarrett Murphy of City Limits

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note: this story has been corrected to accurately reflect why Miguel Martinez went to jail, it was not related to CFB funds.

]]>
The New York City Campaign Finance Board and Its Scofflaws Thu, 06 Oct 2016 04:00:00 +0000