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Archive for May 26th, 2013

Letter to the Editor

To whom it may concern:

I read the editorial in the Recorder today (Monday, May 20) regarding campaign finance law and political corruption with little amusement and quite a bit of distain. The points the editorial makes are sound: campaign finance laws are routinely broken and condoning small violations creates an environment in which more serious corruption flourishes. My issue with this expressed opinion is two-fold. 1. The missive seems to only target State politicians, and 2. it indicates that it is the sole responsibility of the State to audit and call attention to abuse.

Got ethics ?

There is no doubt that State politicians should be held to the highest standards of conduct, especially when handling contributed money because of the influence, either perceived or real, that it may have. The same must be held for all elected or appointed officials at any level of government.

This topic is particularly relevant to my experience during the last campaign. In August of 2011, my team brought irregularities in the reporting practices of the Emanuele Camp to the attention of the Recorder and other media outlets. Mr. Emanuele was interviewed about a donation that had exceeded the legal campaign finance limit and, because of the article, the contribution was returned. Mr. Emanuele said the transaction was the result of a strong supporter’s misunderstanding of the contribution limits, all of the while touting accountability as one of his first priorities. At the same time, he had not reported in-kind donations and costs associated with fundraising. It seemed to me then and still holds true today, that someone that had been an Alderman, Mayor and Chairperson of the Montgomery County Republican Committee should be well-versed in campaign finance laws and procedures and should definitely play by the rules.

Unfortunately, this did not turn out to be the case.

As the campaign progressed, I became increasingly distressed by Mr. Emanuele’s reluctance to make full disclosure of all contributions and expenditures. I wrote about this in my blog, wildthane.wordpress.com, in a posting entitled “Slight of Hand.” The following is that observation, dated November 4, 2011:

campaign

“I am baffled by the claim that Joe Emanuele is paying for his materials, when his NYS Board of Elections Campaign Finance Reports do not show this activity or the resources to produce them. His campaign manager tells us the committee to elect Joe paid for them and they only used the NYRSC return address for a better postal rate. There is no claim to support this activity on the NYRSC report, though they show contributions to races around the state. How can this be so? What gives? or who? and why?

Before the primary, I mailed out an 8.5″ x 11″, full-color card much like those now being delivered to households in Amsterdam every other day. The mailer cost me $3,234.77 for design, printing, and postage. We sent this card to Democratic voters in the city. The Emanuele pieces are evidently being mailed to Republican voters, but the numbers of cards being sent must be relatively close in number, so that I’d wager the cost is as well. To date, we’ve received four mailings at my house and I figure they must run around $3,000 a pop. Since August, the Emanuele coffers have hovered between $4,200 and $5,200, with small expenditures listed for literature: postcards, magnets, stamps… nothing over $210.00. My question becomes, how was the approximate $12,000 disbursement for mailed campaign material (and I dare say, there will be more) paid for?

As well, I notice when driving around our city a plethora of Emanuele signs of all sizes and materials. I purchased 250 signs for $1,438 and, once 70 or 80 of them went missing, reordered another 100 for $672. Mr. Emanuele shows no expenditure for signs, though he does show an expenditure of $108 for stakes. Research shows the Montgomery County Republican Committee paid $486 for Emanuele signs. To my mind, this just doesn’t add up, even without a math degree…

Where’s all of this money coming from? How come it is not being reported, even as in-kind donations? Why isn’t the lack of reporting being reported? Doesn’t this matter when my opponent has made integrity an issue in this campaign?”

The issues of honest fundraising and campaign reporting matter most on the local level. Your alderman, mayor or county official have much more of an effect on your day to day life than your assemblyman or senator. And, most importantly, it’s the law.

Unfortunately, this apparent lack of respect for the law wasn’t sufficiently reported during my last election. Now that the issue has drawn attention on a state-wide level, I trust that the media and our constituency will apply the same level of scrutiny to the upcoming local elections.

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