Friday, December 16, 2016

PAC Reforms are Fake News: How the City Council Uses PACs to Game the Public Finance System

Under de Blasio the UFT Has Become A Bigger Stronger Political Machine $182 Million Budget That NY Pols Fear and Use for Their Reelection 
Boom times for the teachers union, even as more schools fail (NYP) Most “graduates” of the city’s public schools lack the skills to prosper in college or the workplace, but at least business is booming for the United Federation of Teachers.  As Carl Campanile reported in Monday’s Post, the city teachers union is spending more furiously than a drunken sailor: In the year ending last June 30, the UFT upped outlays by $13 million over the year before, to $182.1 million. That equals the entire budget for the city of Albany.   It helped that the union collected an extra $7 million in dues (to $151 million total), thanks to 7,000 new teachers hired under Mayor de Blasio’s Universal Pre-K program.   UFT boss Michael Mulgrew’s smug justification for it all? “Defending public education is increasingly expensive.”   Starting with his pay: The former middle-school shop teacher gets $283,804 — more than Mayor de Blasio, and $56,000 more than Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.   Heck, six UFT staffers out-earn Fariña, who runs de Blasio’s $24 billion, 1 million-student Department of Education. Another 65 staffers pull down more than $150,000.  The UFT also spent $3 million on catered meals, and more for baseball tickets and for junkets to Orlando, New Orleans and Vegas. To be fair, the union also helps its outside friends, handing $3 million to various community and advocacy groups. And it ponied up $125,000 for de Blasio’s nonprofit, United for Affordable NYC. No, the mayor’s housing agenda has nothing to do with education — but pleasing de Blasio is vital to the UFT’s real work, which is preserving its members’ privileges.   Ironically, news of the union’s spending boom follows fresh word of the failure of the mayor’s UFT-friendly Renewal program, which was supposed to turn around dozens of failing city public schools. Thanks to plummeting enrollment and/or still-stagnant scores, Fariña is closing another six Renewal schools, and merging three others with less-dysfunctional schools with which they share buildings.   In all, the chancellor is closing or merging 22 failing schools, a tacit retreat from de Blasio’s bluster, back when he started the Renewal farce, that “we reject the notion of giving up on any of our schools.”No apologies yet from City Hall to the kids stuck attending these schools in the years before the de Blasio-Fariña-Mulgrew regime finally stopped pretending.

Council Reform NY Kills Mayor's Dead PAC But Not the UFT's United or the Future and Developers Job for NY PAC That Elected Them
NYT Leaves Out That the PAC Lobbyists Council Reform Will Allow Special Interests and Their Lobbyists to Continue Funding PACs Most Important to the Council Re-Election
"Also under consideration is a bill that would strictly limit how much lobbyists or those doing business with the city can give to nonprofit groups controlled or created by elected officials. The bill is aimed at a practice used by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was heavily criticized for the activities of the Campaign for One New York, a nonprofit created to support his agenda. The group received millions of dollars in donations from builders, lobbyists, unions and others" (NY Times)  * New York CityCouncil introduces bill to limit business owners’ donation to $400 for politicalnonprofits (NYDN) Contributions to political nonprofits like Mayor de Blasio’s Campaign for One New York would be capped at $400 for donors with city business under a bill introduced in the City Council. The legislation, sponsored by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, aims to rein in conflicts of interest sparked by groups formed by pols to promote their agendas. De Blasio’s now-defunct group raked in unlimited gifts as big as $350,000 with much of the cash coming from people with business before the city. It’s now the subject of multiple investigations probing whether donors got special favors The legislation would bar big gifts from lobbyists, donors with city contracts, and anyone else doing business with the city. It would apply to non-profits formed or controlled by an elected official or their agent, that spend at least 10% of their budget on materials featuring that pol’s name or picture. It’s part of a package of 13 campaign finance bills, which will be up for a hearing on Nov. 21. Other bills would allow pols to use campaign money for costs related to their official public duties, and allow them to return contributions to shady donors to protect their reputation.* Council Poised to Make Changes to City's Campaign Finance System (NY1)

Over A Third of the City Council Was Is Infected With Illegal UFT PAC $$$ From Advance and Red Horse in the 2013 Election This Bill Does Nothing to Change This  

Candidates Funding By Advance and Red Horse 
NYCLASS:  Councilman Mark Levine (Advance Client), Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo: (Advance Client)
United for the Future: Councilman Mark Levine (Advance  Client), Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (Advance Client),  Councilman Robert Jackson (Advance Candidate, Boro President Candidate)

Candidates Funding By Red Horse and Advance's United for the Future PAC:
Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (Abvance Worked on her Speakers Race)Inez Dickens (Advance Client), Corey Johnson (AdvancePAC) (running against Advance client Yetta Krukland),

Red Horse Clients Who Received United for the Future Mailings from Red Horse 
James Vacca, Helen Rosenthal, Annabel Palm, Daneek Miller,  Antonio Reynoso,  Ritchie Torres

Advance Clients Who Received Mailings from Advance PACs
Mathieu Eugene, Yetta Krukland, Ydanis Rodríguez,  Rafael L Espinal, Jr.

The UFT is A Client of Berlin Rosen and Worked for the Following Candidates Funded By the UFT PAC United for the Future
Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, Ydanis A Rodriguez, Austin I Shafran, Rory Lancman, Elizabeth S Crowley, 
Richards Donovan, Stephen T Levin, Kirsten J Foy

Other Council Member Funded By United for the Future
Costa Constantinides, Mark Weprin (Hudson TG), Karen Koslowitz (Hudson TG),  Elizabeth Crowley (Berlin Rosen Client),  Richard Donovan (Berlin Rosen Client), Inez Barron, Jumaane Williams, Alan Maisel (Brandford), Mark Treyger (Hudson TG),  Debra Rose (Brandford), Steven Matteo, Vincent Ignizio, Eric Ulrich, Rosie Mendez Mendez, Inez E Dickens, Andrew Cohen, Rory Lancman, Steven Levin, Brad Lander

UFT Advance Secret Relationship Secret Illegal Relationship During the 2013 Campaign
 The Advance Group also faces a CFB probe into an outside-spending campaign the firm ran on behalf of the United Federation of Teachers under the name "Strategic Consultants, Inc.," and separately, NYCLASS gave donations to the anti-Quinn efforts far above state-imposed limits.United Federation of Teachers' super PAC had paid more than $370,000 to a fictitious political consulting firm "Strategic Consultants Inc.," which was actually the well-known Manhattan consulting firm the Advance Group. Advance Group puts logo on phony firm's invoice( CrainsNY)* The advance group got paid $28,000 by gay city council candidate Yetta Kurland at the same time the firm work for the City Action Coalition PAC, which on its website touts itself as supporting candidates who oppose gay marriage and abortion rights.Advance was on both side of the Kurland race.  The firm also secretly worked to have been promot Johnson’s candidacy through an IE paid for by the UFT via a company called Strategic Consultants—apparently a dummy shell corporation set up to obscure the Advance Group’s double-dealing.  "Questions Raised Over U.F.T. Campaign Filing" [Beth Fertig]* * UFT under fire for apparently trying to hide identity of consulting firm(NYDN) *UFT paid $370,000 to fake consultant (CrainsNY)* Advance Group puts logo on phony firm's invoice( CrainsNY)

CFB and Media Protecting UFT PAC United for the Future Lobbyists and Council Members

The CFB Fined Two Councilmember for Working With Advance and Its PAC NYCLASS But Has Not Fined Advance, Red Horse and Berlin Rosen for Their Clients Getting PAC Funds From the UFT PAC That They Controlled

How Campaign Consultant Lobbyists and The PACs They Controlled Broke the Election Law and Got Away With It and Built A Shadow Government

Teachers union contributed $4.7M to political activities last year(NYP) The city teachers union poured $4.7 million into political activities and lobbying last year — nearly $1 million more than in fiscal year 2013, according to its new annual spending report. Much of the spending was used to support Mayor de Blasio’s agenda — including the successful campaign to expand pre-K and the losing effort to knock Republicans out of power in the state Senate. The union also successfully fought back a plan to provide tax benefits to aid parochial schools.And the union generously bankrolls groups that support its agenda, including fighting the expansion of charter schools.

Parkside Group Work for A Developer PAC that Spent over $7.5 Million On Council Races

Lobbyists Groups Parkside Spent $7.5 Million of Real Estate Developers Money and Failed to Elected A Council Speaker. . . Making Their Queens Boss Crowley Their Benefactor A Loser

But the biggest donors to council races were the city’s real estate titans, who raised nearly $7 million in a bid to influence the election of City Council members. Spending for the PAC was coordinated by the industry’s lobbying arm, the Real Estate Board of New York.  But after the elections, REBNY President Steven Spinola was quick to declare victory, asserting that 18 of the 22 candidates backed by his group had won their elections. But determining just who was doling out the big bucks proved challenging, since most of the contributions to the real estate PAC, dubbed Jobs for New York, came from murky corporate entities that are otherwise ineligible to donate directly to candidates in city elections.* NY State Senate Republicans have $2.9 million in campaignaccount(NYDN)
Council Candidates Who Got Help From Jobs for NY: Margaret S Chin, Micah  Kellner Mark Levine, Inez E Dickens, Andrew King, Fernando Cabrera, Paul Vallone, Rory Lancman, Donovan Richards, Lourie Cumbo, Carlos Menchaca, Mark Treyger, Chaim M Deutsch,

Even the Manhattan DA and the Head of the CFB Believe the Council is Criminalizing Reforms
Council Bill Could Make Campaign Fraud Easier in New York, Critics Say (NYT) The Manhattan district attorney is among those sharply criticizing proposals that would alter the city’s campaign finance system.  The bill being considered would let candidates complete or make changes to contribution cards required of donors that give identifying information, including, among other things, the date and amount of contributions. “This bill would eliminate an important safeguard against violations of campaign finance law and the defrauding of taxpayers,” Mr. Vance wrote in the letter, which The Daily News reported about on Friday.  Mr. Vance said the contribution-card bill would make it hard to prosecute some fraud cases. In one such case, his office secured an indictment this year against Celia D. Dosamantes, a Democrat accused of altering contribution cards to make it appear as if some donors had given more than they had and to increase the amount of matching funds she received. Rose Gill Hearn, chairwoman of the city’s Campaign Finance Board, also criticized the contribution-card bill in a memo last month, saying it would complicate the task of detecting instances of fraud involving the matching funds program. Ms. Gill Hearn criticized several other proposals being considered by the Council, saying they could hamper the board’s ability to do its job. She said the bills had advanced without sufficient deliberation, unlike other proposed reforms backed by the board that have languished for months but now are expected to win the Council’s approval by year’s end.  One proposal drawing Ms. Gill Hearn’s criticism would strictly limit who could attend the board’s executive sessions, which are closed to the public. Ms. Gill Hearn said that could keep the board from consulting with its own staff members or others when considering penalties for campaign-finance violations. She also took issue with a proposal that would place new requirements on the board when a candidate contests its findings that a violation has occurred. The bills are expected to be voted on along with other legislation long sought by advocates. That legislation includes a proposal to keep contributions bundled by lobbyists and others doing business with the city out of the matching-funds system.  There are now strict limits on how much money lobbyists and those with business with the city can give to candidates directly, but those same people can raise unlimited sums from others that they can package together and give to candidates in a process known as bundling. Because bundled funds can qualify for the matching-funds program, the process greatly magnifies bundlers’ influence.

The Council’s cashgrab: New legislation would make it easier for questionable donations toqualify for taxpayer matching funds (NYDN)  Just in time for the 2017 election cycle, the City Council is set to scale back oversight of its own members’ cash infusions from New York City’s taxpayer-backed campaign fund matching program.  They must not get away with it.  The program, intended to amplify the voices of small-fry donors in local elections, offers a 6-to-1 match for every dollar contributed by city residents. The first $175 is matchable, meaning a maximum grant of $1,050. In 2013 elections, the matches totaled $33 million.  To ensure that the private contributions that trigger public support are on the up and up, donors are simply asked to certify that their contributions are kosher under law.  Giving a check? Sign a card that says “I understand that State law requires that a contribution be in my name and be from my own funds.” Are you a city contractor or lobbyist, thereby barred from giving more than $250 to a Council candidate and $400 for mayor? Spell it out.  Yet here come Councilmen David Greenfield and Carlos Menchaca of Brooklyn, with legislation, popular in a self-serving Council, that would eliminate the requirement for most contributions by check. And credit card. And text message. And many by money order.  Where the forms would still be required — for instance, for contributions made in cash — the measure would give campaigns authority to complete or correct the paperwork on donors’ behalf. Greenfield and Menchaca say the reduced paperwork will make it easier for fresh faces to run for elected office. As though it’s terribly burdensome to ask donors to sign a simple piece of paper or, on a website, check a box.  Please. For imaginary gain, the bill would signal open season for schemers looking to exploit the system and fleece the taxpayers. Which is why Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance on Wednesday warned the Council that a provision granting campaigns power to revise forms at will would destroy “an important safeguard” against criminal fraud. Vance should know. In September, he charged Queens Council candidate Celia Dosamantes with forging 32 contribution cards for the purpose of illegally collecting matching funds on nonexistent donations during her losing 2015 run — pilferage traceable, prosecutors say, because the Campaign Finance Board caught her with the fake cards in hand. Greenfield now says he’ll reconsider that bit — while still ditching the safeguard documents in most cases.  The bad bill smells no better for sidling in next to a worthy measure putting the same $400 cap that already applies to campaign donations on lobbyists’ donations to political nonprofits like Mayor de Blasio’s now defunct Campaign for One New York. And even worse for bypassing the government operations committee that Council rules say oversees the Campaign Finance Board — but whose chair, Ben Kallos of Manhattan, has publicly expressed concern about undermining the matching system’s integrity.  Integrity: heard of it?

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