NEW YORK, NY — April 29, 2021 — Silly season is upon us, better known as “election” season.
There is a lot at stake in upcoming elections for office as there will be a significant change of guard in governments. Policing elections is up to the Campaign Finance Board (CFB) in New York City and State Board of Elections (SBOE) outside New York City. Both agencies are tasked with ensuring the candidates for office follow the rules to limit the prospect of corruption.
Specific to New York City, reforms took place in the late 1980’s after Mayor Ed Koch advocated to change things after Borough of Queens President Donald R. Manes was caught in the midst of fixing contracts with the Parking Violations Bureau and taking bribes.
The CFB conducts extensive audits and can impose fines ranging from $100 to several thousand dollars per violation. For example, a perusal of the “Outstanding Penalties and Repayments of Public Funds Owed” to the CFB shows:
ISSUE 1: $59,559 is owed by Thomas Pierre-Lopez: “Crain’s New York Business”. On November 22, 2019 it was divulged, “A fringe candidate … got grabby with the city’s money, a probe by the Campaign Finance Board found. Thomas Lopez-Pierre will have to repay $54,107 of the $99,180 in matching funds the CFB gave him for his failed 2017 bid to oust City Councilman Mark Levine of Manhattan—plus $6,182 in fines for assorted forms of malfeasance. The panel charged him with failing to account for more than $10,000 in transactions, failing to report more than $12,000 in contributions, exceeding the $100 limit on individual cash expenditures, using campaign funds for personal purposes and making campaign expenditures after the election was over.
ISSUE 2: 71,730 is owed by Felipe Luciano,
ISSUE 3: $74,278 is owed by Everly Brown,
ISSUE 4: $83,375 is owed by Dexter A. McKenzie, and
ISSUE 5: $138,658 is owed by Diana Reyna.
When it comes to donor violations, candidates get in trouble for not properly reporting where donations come from and not complying with the CFB’s procedures and protocols. Excess monies are to be given back from donors who do business with the “city’ and whatever monies donated to a candidate must be disclosed. Further, candidates for office that seek Public Matching Funds may not accept contributions from political committees that are not registered with the CFB.
We received a complaint from a reader that grieved to the CFB about “the flamboyant Curtis Sliwa, who is running for mayor on the Republican ticket, openly campaigning while wearing his Guardian Angel attire.” The central question behind the complaint is if the Guardian Angels is a non-profit and not a registered political committee with the CFB, then how can they make contributions to Sliwa’s Mayoral campaign?
According to Constantinos (Gus) Prentzas, he contacted authorities about these potential violations involving the non-profit Guardian Angels and its founder Curtis Sliwa; however, he has not heard back from them.
Politically profiting off the goodwill built by non-profits is clearly prohibited by the CFB. The Internal Revenue Service has even more strict rules limiting political activity of non-profits.
This is what prompted us to ask what does the CFB do?
They have a long list of outstanding debt that they obviously will not collect for political reasons. And when people complain about potential violations, it falls on deaf ears. How come?
Recently, there was a kerfuffle with New York City’s former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan’s New York City mayoral campaign. It came to light a week after the CFB questioned the relationship between a Political Action Committee that dumped $2 million into advertising to boost Donovan’s mayoral bid. It turned out that the major donor was Donovan’s father and through legal wrangling the CFB ultimately allowed candidate Donovan to obtain nearly $1.5 million in matching funds.
Is that it? Doe one have to be super wealthy or well connected to obscure election law rules?
In the alternative, perhaps, the CFB is waiting to act on current issues until after the upcoming Primary elections in June?
Will the Campaign Finance Board (CFB) ever become sufficiently transparent with the taxpayer’s election matching funds and prove themselves worthy of the electorates’ trust when the numbers noted herein suggest they cannot?