Campaign Finance Reform: Now It's Racist, Too


New York's law limiting political donations by "those who do business with the city" is one of the most onerous in the nation. Mayoral candidates are allowed to accept only $400 per person; city council candidates, $250. James Bopp, Jr, the lawyer who killed Vermont's strict donation limits, is challenging the law's fairness from an interesting angle.

Mr. Bopp claimed that New York's limits would make it more difficult for minority candidates to run, because they tend to come from poorer areas where their neighbors cannot contribute, so they must turn to business interests for donations.

"When minority candidates run, their natural constituency is their neighborhoods and their neighbors," Mr. Bopp said in a telephone interview.

"And the unfortunate reality is that the minority population is on average in the lower socioeconomic level and less able to contribute, so minority candidates have to rely — I am told by activists here, consultants — that they tend to rely disproportionately on contributions from outside of their district, and in particular, business interests. So that this would disproportionately affect them.

"The 13 plaintiffs include one African-American and four Hispanics, including two Republican former City Council candidates who say in the suit that they would like to run again, but could not afford to do so with the new limits in place.

It's strange that Bopp is the first person to point this out in New York City, home of noted election-buyer Michael Bloomberg. Oh, what's he have to say?

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who pushed for the new limits, defended the law on Monday.

"I'm not a constitutional lawyer," Mr. Bloomberg said. "It's a very well-intentioned and well-drafted piece of legislation and certainly we should have that law. Whether the way they drafted it's constitutional, that's up to the courts."

I tried to bury national campaign finance reform here.