Campaign Finance Reform: Now It's Racist, Too

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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.

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  1. Ah, well – so long as it’s “well-intentioned.” (Sigh.)

  2. Not a problem.
    The poorly connected ‘minority’ candidates must simply switch fund raising to those neighborhoods housing legions of asian ethnic cooks, bottlewashers and waiters, each of whom so generously handed thousands to the Clinton machine.

  3. It’s so cute when they pretend that anything can reduce the obscene corruption in NYC politics.

  4. Campaign finance reform hcomes to New York: women and minorities hardest hit.

  5. If a meteorite struck New York City, would it leave a disparate-impact crater?

  6. Gawd Damn white man.

  7. Something about the road to hell and how it’s paved…

  8. It’s so cute when they pretend that anything can reduce the obscene corruption in NYC politics.

    I’m not sure that image is justified anymore. NYC’s political mechanisms are no more screwy nowadays than any other city’s.

  9. If a meteorite struck New York City, would it leave a disparate-impact crater?

    Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck would stop it with their egos before it could hit.

  10. Common sense says let people give as much as they want and put it in the public record.Oh,wait,this is politics.Sorry.

  11. Where were these poor minority candidates going to raise money before the law?

  12. Where were these poor minority candidates going to raise money before the law?

    NAACP? $4,000 donations from wealthy NYC blacks? Hold a Black History Month fundraiser at $10,000 a plate? Hit up the Nigerian Cab Drivers Association for $100,000?

    All the things entrenched politicians do under the table.

    I’m not sure that image is justified anymore. NYC’s political mechanisms are no more screwy nowadays than any other city’s.

    Damned with faint praise.

  13. “I’m not a constitutional lawyer,” is one of my least favourite lines that a politician can say. You know that its probably going to be followed by somthing pretty ignorant. It also happens to be one of Sen. John McCain’s favourite phrases.

  14. Is somebody posting as “joe” without his permission?

    CB

  15. Now I’m not a constitutional lawyer, but wouldn’t having some understanding and respect for the constitution be important for an elected official to have?

  16. Ah, so that’s why Wm Jefferson had 90 grand in the freezer.

  17. NYC’s political mechanisms are no more screwy nowadays than any other city’s.

    Did they get better or did everybody else catch up?

  18. Now I’m not a constitutional lawyer, but wouldn’t having some understanding and respect for the constitution be important for an elected official to have?

    Apparently not, since John McCain keeps getting elected.

  19. “Now I’m not a constitutional lawyer, but wouldn’t having some understanding and respect for the constitution be important for an elected official to have?”

    Not really.

    The Constitution was pretty much wadded up and thrown away by FDR and the rollover Supremes 70 some odd years ago.

    All that’s left are emanations of penumbras.

  20. Why do so many say “race”, when they mean “class”? Is it an honest error because the poor are so often color coded by their relative levels of melanin? Or is it a conditioned hesitance to acknowledge that issues of class DO exist in the land of the free and home of the brave, where all men are created equal?

  21. ‘Minority candidates hardest hit’

    Make-up of NYC
    26.6% black
    27.0% hispanic
    54.5% white or asian (44.7 + 9.8)

    Make-up of plantiffs:
    7.7% black
    30.7% Hispanic
    61.5% White(or Asian/PI/Native american/something else – but you think they would have indicated the distinction if this was the case?)

    Not a fan of the reg, but just sayin’.

  22. NYC’s political mechanisms are no more screwy nowadays than any other city’s.

    Did they get better or did everybody else catch up?

    Caught up? When it comes to corruption, Detroit* passed NYC quite some time ago.

    * I think every major city citizen thinks their town is the worst, but if you want to compare headlines …

  23. Caught up? When it comes to corruption, Detroit* passed NYC quite some time ago.

    Yeah, after watching bits and pieces of the Kwame Kilpatrick show, Detroit has any other contender that size beat.

  24. JsubD,

    New Mexico has been practicing corrupt politics since almost 200 years before the US existed. All you amateurs out East just think you know how to do it, but you don’t.

  25. JsubD,

    I think every major city citizen thinks their town is the worst, but if you want to compare headlines …

    Top this one:

    1626 Spanish Inquisition established in New Mexico.

  26. Pre United States history doesn’t count.

    NYC, Detriot, etc. didn’t have an “equal opportunity” to compete for the corruption prize then since they weren’t around yet.

  27. Of course, no one ever expects the Spanish Inquisition to return…

  28. I knew there were some shady politics in the southwest, but I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition.

  29. joe,

    I believe you have be pre-buted.

  30. been prebuted, that is.

  31. I sure be, NM.

    Marginal case of joez law.

  32. It sounds like Bopp is using a pretty dubious line of reasoning here. On the other hand, if he’s the guy who got rid of Vermont’s crappy law, I should tip my hat to him.

    Horray for free speech!

    What’s that? The Vermont legislature is working on another version already? We’ll have a law back in place within a year? Fuck.

  33. I think that campaign finance is broken, but not for the reasons most here probably do. If you limit what people can give to a candidate but a candidate can spend his/her own money, then you just have an incumbents or rich candidates protection law.

    I’d be down for a law that put a limit on what any campaign could spend, though any formula for such a thing would impossible I should think…

    The correlation between $ spent and votes is certainly not perfect, but it’s there. It’s common sense, why do you think companies spend millions of dollars on advertising? Spreading ideas by word of mouth is a good way to have your business be uncompetitive vs. one that has a solid advertising budget.

  34. The Supreme Court has ruled, for example, that it’s ok to have reasonable time and place restrictions on speech if there is a compelling state interest (here it could be reducing corruption or fostering equality of opportunity to influence politics), and I would see such a law as in line with that. Everyone could still “speak” by donating money (I’m not sure that’s speech anyway, but for the sake of arg.), they just could not speak with 10 million dollars.

  35. A “compelling state interest” should be the reason speech is unencumbered. We the People shouldn’t give a fuck what the state is interested in when we speak. If we have to wait for their approval, we are not free.

    I hate the Fucking Supreme Court. (That’s their new official name, by the way.)

  36. Anyone else notice this: “the unfortunate reality is that the minority population is on average in the lower socioeconomic level and less able to contribute”

    ….so would they really be shelling out more than $250 for some political candidate?

  37. The correlation between $ spent and votes is certainly not perfect, but it’s there.

    See, in my mind, this just reinforces the point that its all political speech, whether in the form of free media, contributions to candidates, contributions to “independent” organizations, paid media, or whatever, and that as such it cannot be regulated by the federal government.

    The Supreme Court has ruled, for example, that it’s ok to have reasonable time and place restrictions on speech if there is a compelling state interest (here it could be reducing corruption or fostering equality of opportunity to influence politics)

    But the means must be narrowly tailored. If you are trying to outlaw corruption (the quid pro quo of cash for favors), then outlaw the quid pro quo. You can’t be overbroad, and outlaw lots of other activities that aren’t in fact corrupt.

  38. Quid-pro-quo isn’t the problem he’s talking about.

  39. ….so would they really be shelling out more than $250 for some political candidate?

    That’s the point. The proposition is that to compete fairly minority candidates need to be able to tap deeper pockets. So the law creates a hardship for them.

    That’s the argument. Not saying it’s a good argument. But it could be said that it falls in the realm of unintended consequences.

  40. The proposition is that to compete fairly minority candidates need to be able to tap deeper pockets. So the law creates a hardship for them

    And it *is* a bad argument. Currently, the african-american man has the edge on the causcasian woman in part because the woman is not able to tap anymore of her early deep pockets. While the man has had a superior ability to grow his organization – a strategy in some ways directed by the fact that pockets are limited to 2300 dollars for each pair of pants.

    The consequentialist arguement for CFR is weak; yes it helps incumbents to an extent, but the two party oligarchy and other institutional advantages play a far greater role. In other ways, I would say that CFR helps ‘democracy’ by forcing campaigns to establish a widespread network to gather cash rather than a few money men (or women)

    The only winnable (and correct IMO) argument against CFR is that pesky 1st amendement thing.

  41. The term “minority” in political contexts is generally misused. There’s plenty of minority groups that do just fine in America. Filipino Americans, for example have a median family income significantly above the white median family income.

  42. The only winnable (and correct IMO) argument against CFR is that pesky 1st amendement thing.

    Indeed.

  43. The term “minority” in political contexts is generally misused.

    Yeah. As in the 53% of people who are women and make up a “minority.” Or the Hispanic “minority” in San Antonio, now running 65%.

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