Abusing City Funds
Paid For By The People Of N.Y.C.: Full color Miller campaign literature paid for with City Funds
Council Speaker Giff Miller came to Queens to campaign for Mayor at the Bayside Senior Center accompanied by Queens Councilman David Weprin. They distributed a Miller promotional piece paid for by the citizens of New York City. Complete with the Seal of the City of New York, the full color piece called “Focus on Seniors” on one side is headlined “About Giff Miller” on the other. The piece refers to Miller 11 times and takes a number of shots at Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Ethics In Government
The City-paid-for piece is clearly another example of Giff Miller using City money to pay for campaign printing.
It does not mention Weprin except for a small headshot.
But Weprin, who is chair of the Finance Committee and has indicated he would like to run for NYC Comptroller in the future, is complicit in this use of City money for campaign purposes. He not only continues to justify gray area, self-promoting expenditures on the part of a morally bankrupt Miller, he holds Miller’s hand while the other is clearly taking money out of the City’s till.
It is time for Weprin and other elected officials to refuse to appear at events where City money is abused to promote the overly ambitious, out-of-control Speaker.
Councilman Weprin, support whoever you want, but you must repudiate the abuse of City funds!
When you see Councilman Weprin, ask him why he tolerates Miller spending our money on his Mayoral campaign.
Will Weprin be a Miller apologist or a fiscally responsible leader worthy of future consideration? Please ask him.
Previous pleas to Miller to stop using City funds for campaign purposes have fallen on deaf ears. We must stop his abuse by making those like Weprin, who are complicit in this public fraud, speak out in on behalf of the people of our City.
David, what do you have to say?
By HENRY STERN
We frequently read about events which appear to our moral sensibilities to be official misconduct. Occasionally, they violate the Penal Law, and if properly prosecuted would result in jail time for the miscreants. But more often they illustrate self-interest, financial or political, which may outrage honest people, but are nonetheless not crimes.
Then there are transactions in which people generally regarded as honorable, who indeed have done good work in exposing wrongdoing, are themselves revealed as receiving six-figure contributions from persons or businesses affected by their decisions.
The counterweight is that the cost of campaigns, including television time, now runs from seven to eight figures (that’s not millions, that’s digits. Seven starts at $1 million, and eight at $10 million). Campaign finance programs don’t cover state elections. The city’s program is seriously abused, although it has substantial merit.
But how can a candidate, not a billionaire (that’s 10 figures) pay for a campaign without heavy contributions? In the absence of significant ideological issues, big givers often want big favors.
Some public officials have millions of dollars in patronage to hand out, with few if any guidelines or some restrictions. For example, when seeking a lead underwriter for a bond issue, many first-rate firms can do the job. How to decide which to select? By taking bids, you could choose the firm which charges least. But will that firm do as well in marketing the bonds, in finding people willing to buy them? A firm which charges less for underwriting may actually provide lower returns for the state.
The choice of such a firm is difficult to decide arithmetically. Laws prohibit contributions to public officials by firms in the securities business, but regulatory schemes can be circumvented. When you deal with smart lawyers helping A to contribute to B, it is difficult to prevent a transfer of funds by one means or another.
Ruling out gifts from commercial entities to encourage favorable action or to prevent unfavorable action, the only people who would contribute are personal friends and committed ideologues. Why should a candidate’s chances for election be determined by how rich his friends are, or who can be intimidated into giving?
The more givers are excluded, the fewer candidates can compete. John Corzine’s race for Governor of New Jersey is anchored by his wealth. In political lingo, he is “self-funded.” Corzine spent over $60 million on his 2000 senate campaign. His Republican opponent in 2005, Doug Forrester, also possesses substantial means. Is great personal wealth becoming a practical requirement for the pursuit of public office?
In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg’s massive wealth, reflected in campaign spending and charitable contributions, influences voters. But he is a Republican in a 5-1 Democratic city, although Republicans won the last three mayoral elections. Giuliani did it twice without an enormous funding advantage, having had earned a reputation for public service as United States Attorney. Bloomberg was unknown before 2001.
But the Mayor would have lost if many people were not dissatisfied with the Democratic nominee, Mark Green, whose shortcomings, real and imagined, we need not discuss. Bloomberg is a favorite for re-election, despite relatively weak likability ratings and heated objections by some to his programs: banning smoking, the West Side Stadium, real estate tax increases, etc. That is largely because of the visible weakness of his opponents. Not one has significant private sector experience. The public does not perceive any as possessing mayoral gravitas.
These observations are unrelated to their merits or character, and do not indicate support or lack of support. But a weary city, again threatened by terrorists, wants stable, responsible leadership.
Without a record of achievement or unusual personal charm, it is difficult for anyone, particularly a youngster, to project reassurance.
We fear not for democracy. Yesterday in New York City history, the choices were far worse. For decades the city was in the grip of Tammany Hall, which today would be called a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization). Congress passed the RICO act in 1970 to permit prosecution of such organizations.
We ask in closing: What should decent citizens do in the face of a pattern of self-serving behavior by public and party officials, much of which is not prohibited by law but nonetheless offensive to reasonable standards of conduct and integrity? Only by answering that question can we liberate ourselves from the barbarians who rule us.