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City Limits Magazine | 2008 FALL | Campaign Finance Reform

City Limits Magazine | 2008 FALL | Campaign Finance Reform

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Twenty years after the enactment of what was at the time the nation’s most aggressive municipal campaign finance law, this edition of City Limits Magazine, penned by our editor Jarrett Murphy, traces the history of that law, looks at how well in practice it has measured up to its stated goals and, most fundamentally, asks whether the system is working well for citizens and for candidates.
Twenty years after the enactment of what was at the time the nation’s most aggressive municipal campaign finance law, this edition of City Limits Magazine, penned by our editor Jarrett Murphy, traces the history of that law, looks at how well in practice it has measured up to its stated goals and, most fundamentally, asks whether the system is working well for citizens and for candidates.

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Published by: City Limits (New York) on Oct 11, 2012
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Before
MayorBloomberg
said he'll
try
to
run
again,
contenders
for
next
year's mayoral
race included
(from
top
left, clockwise) Council SpeakerChristine Quinn, Comptroller William Thompson, Representative Anthony Weiner
and
Councilman Tony Avella.
Photos:
NYC
Council,U.S.House,
NYC
Comptroller,
and
Tracy Collins
Statement
of
ownership,
management and
circulation,
required
39
U.S.C.
3685:
Title ofPublication: City Limits
.
Publicationnumber:
498890.
Date
of
filing:
September
2008.
Issue
frequency: Quarterly;
spring, summer,
fall,
winter. Number
of
issues
published annually:
4.
Annual subscription
price:
$25
individual/$50 organizational. Complete mailing address
of publication:
120
Wall
Street,
20th
floor,
New
York, NY 10005.
Complete mailing address
of publisher: City
Futures
Inc.,
120
Wall
Street,
20th
floor,
New
York, NY 10005.
Publisher:
Andrew
Breslau.
Editor:
Jarrett
Murphy. Owner: City
Futures
Inc.,
120
Wall
Street,
20th
floor,
New
York, NY 10005.
Known
bondholders,mortgages
or
securities:
None
.
The purpose,
function
and
nonprofit
status
ofthis organization
and the exempt status
for
federal income
tax
purposeshave
notchanged during
preceding
12
months.
Extentand nature
of
circulation:
Total
average
number
of
copies: 3036
(2752
closestto
filing
date).
Paid/Requested
Circulation:
1537(1603
closestto
filing)
.
PaidDistribution
by
OtherClasses
of
Mail
through
the
USPS:70
(135
closestto
filing).
Total
paid
and/or
requested
circulation:
1607 (1745
closest to
filing).
Free
distribution
by
mail:
975
(1016
closest to
filing).
Free
distributionoutside
the
mail:
200 (215
closest to
filing).
Total
free
distribution:
1175
(1231
closest to
filing).
Total
distribution:
2782 (2976
closest
to
filing)
.
Copies
not
distributed:
1968(1024
closest to
filing).
Total: 4750
(4000
closest to
filing).
Percentpaid and/or requested
circulation
58%
(59%
closest to
filing).
I
certify
that
the
statementsmadeby me are
correct
and
complete:
Andrew
Breslau,Executive
Director.
 
PUBLISHER'S
NOTE
New
York
City's campaign finance
law
was a reformbornout of outrage. In the 1980s,New
York
's political atmosphere was a stew of combustible ingredients: one
part
pugnacious ebullience,definitivelyembodied by
Ed
Koch;another part a distressingly familiararrogancebornout of a go-go, junkbond-fueled,"Greed is good"
Wall
Streetboomand
un-
derlying it
all
a persistent, post-Watergate skepticism about government and the integrity ofpublic servants.
Add
to that roux a raft of corruption and racketeering scandals that rockedcity government and youhave
all
the ingredients you need for a golden era of reform.Twenty years after the enactment of what was at the time thenation'smost aggressivemunicipal campaign finance
law,
this edition of City LimitsInvestigates,pennedbyInves tigative EditorJarrettMurphy, traces thehistoryof that
law,
looksat how well in practiceit
has
measured up to its stated goals and, most fundamentally, asks whether the system isworking well for citizens and for candidates.
The
law
hoped toboostcivic participation, reduce corruption, increase transparency andstimulatedebate.And, even
if
itwasn't
an
explicit goal of the
law,
many New Yorkershopedthat it might spur rigorous grassroots competition andloosenthe politburo-like grip
on
public office that incumbency confers.After a generation, the Campaign Finance Board clearly can claim many notable accomplishments. It enjoys a resolute nonpartisan reputation andmaintainsexemplarypublic recordsdetailing who is giving what
to
whom.Not leastamong its successes is that New
York
has not been stricken by scandals nearly asbrazenasthose thatdefined the 80s. But by some other measures, not much has changed. Newer challenges,too, have emerged
to
threaten the law's relevance and viability.
The
impact of credible self-financing candidates-particularly our currentbillionaire
mayor-has
exposed a wholenew
set
of limitations and challenges
to
the law's efficacy.Who could have possibly imagined a candidate who spent more money on food during hislast campaign than the entirety ofallbut one City Council race that year? Who could havepossiblyimagineda candidate capable of spending more than
$120
pervote? Perhapsjustas troubling is that the list of successful insurgent campaigns for public office remains amighty
short
one. Since 1989, city incumbentshavewon
96
percent of contested primaryand general elections.It's been said that the only solution fordemocracy is more democracy.But as
we
lookatthis history of campaign finance reform in New York and the prospects for further improving the system,
we
need
to
ask just what are thebesttools
to
add"moredemocracy" and wonder howheavyahandgovernment should wield in shapingpublicparticipation. Before we
set
about that future task weneedto know where
we
started and where we are
now. We
hope this edition of
CLI
begins
to
draw sucharoadmap.
CITY
LIMITSINVESTIGATES
Is
publl.ahed
quarterly
(Spring,
Swnmer,Fall
and
Winter)
hy
CityFutures,Inc
.,
120Wall
Street-Ooor
20,
New
York, NY10005,
a
nonprofit organization
devoted
to rethinking,refrarningand
improving
urban policies
in
New
York
City and,
by extension,
other
cities
throughoutAmerica.
For
features,
news
updates
and analysis,
events
andjobs
of
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to
people workingin
New
York
City's
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and
pollcymaklng world,
sign
up
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Limits
Weeldyon
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www.citylimlts.org
.
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is also hometoCenter
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an
Urban
Future
(www.nycfuture.org),
a
thinktank
dedicated
to
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fact-based research aboutcritical
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affecting
New
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General support
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by the
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F.
and
Alva
B.
GimbelFoundation,
Deutsche
Bank,
the
F.B.
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Fund
for
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City of
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York,
the Scherman Foundation
Inc.
,
and
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Universalist Veatch
Program
at
Shelter
Rock.
Additional
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City
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projects
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W.
DeCamp Foundation.Periodical
postage paldNew
York,
NY 10001
City
Limits
(USPS
498·890)
(ISSN0199-0330)
-Andy
Breslau,Publisher
Subscriptions to
City
Limits
Investigates
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Please send them
toinv8stigat8s@citylimits.org.
Posbnaster:
Pleasesend
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changes
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City
Limits
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I
New
York,
NY
10005
T:
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I
F:
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479-3338
E:
investigatesOcitylimlts.org
DeSign by
C.
Jerome. Design
Confederation
Copyright
e
2008.
All
Rights Reserved.
No
portion
or
portions of this journal
may
be
reprinted without
the
express permission
of
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publishers.
City
Limits
Is
indexed in
Ute
Alternative Press Index andtheAvery
Indexto
ArchItectural Periodicals
and
is available
on
microfilmfrom ProOuest,
Ann
Arbor,MI
48106.
FALL
2008
THE
PRICE OF
POLITICS
20
years
of
campaignfinance
reform
in
New
York City
CHAPrERS
I.
The
test
II. Scandal's childIII.
"It
could have flopped"
IV.
SwimminginNiagara
V.
Following
the
money
VI.
We
interrupt
this election
...
VII. Payingtheir
dues
vrn.
The
$150 million elephant
DC.
Reform,take six
X.
Earlyresults
IN FOCUS
Reform,
redux
The
city
's
system
evolves
Lessuneven
Money
and
power
in 2005
Uncertain
terms
Reform
and
reality
at
the
races
Trading
up
When
city officials
seek
higher
posts
Repeat expenders
Two decades
of
op
donors
CITY LIMITS STAFF
Jarrett
Murphy
Investigati
ons
Ed
it
or
Karen
Loew
CityLimits.org Editor
Abraham Paulos
N
ewsAssistant/
R
epo
rter
CITY FUTURES STAFF
Andy Breslau
Ex
ecutive
Dir
ec
torlPubli
sher
MarkAnthony
Thomas
De
pu
tyDirector
Ahmad
Dowla
Administrative
Assistant
CITY FUTURES BOARD
OF
DIRECTORS:
4
68
10
1316
1920
23
2669
11
15
25
MargaretAnadu.Michael Connor,R
usse
ll
Dub
ne
r,
K
en
Emerson, David Lebenstein,Gail
O.
Me
ll
ow,G
iffor
d
Mill
er,
LisetteNieves, Andrew Reicher, IraRubenstein,
John
Siegal, Karen
Tr
ella,Peter
Willi
ams,Mark Winston
Griffi
th
WWW.CITYLIMITS
.
ORG

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