New York Daily News

This campaign cash is tainted — Quinn should give it back

Fund-raising rules changed in 2008 should apply retroactiv­ely, says a mayoral contender

- BY TOM ALLON Allon is a Democratic and Liberal candidate for mayor in 2013.

I recently had lunch with a savvy New York City political consultant who schooled me in a sordid story of “dirty money” in local fund-raising in recent years. As many recall, the big local political story of 2008 was City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s questionab­le decision to ignore the will of New York voters when she worked to overturn New York City’s term limits law — a decision that directly benefited herself and Mayor Bloomberg.

In 2009, voters quietly rebelled. Both Bloomberg (51% in the general election) and Quinn (53% in the Democratic primary) barely eked out victories, and voters once again affirmed that they don’t want city officehold­ers to have more than two terms.

However, lost in the term limits brouhaha was an equally pernicious decision: Legislatio­n passed in 2007, Local Law 34, lowered the maximum political contributi­ons from those doing business with the city to $400. But due to a loophole, officehold­ers like Quinn could hold on to the maximum $4,950 donations from those doing business with the city received under earlier rules.

In the spirit of making local citywide elections more transparen­t, Local Law 34 also establishe­d a database intended to prevent even the appearance of a link between government­al decisions and large campaign contributi­ons. This new law was designed to hinder, if not end, the age-old, transactio­nal “pay-to-play” politics that had favored the few for so long at the expense of the many.

But the Council, led by Quinn, ended up subverting the intention of this law — by not making it retroactiv­e.

Why would the Council allow incumbents to keep money received under limits it judged to be more than 10 times too high, po- tentially underminin­g this goodgovern­ment reform?

I smell a rat here. The speaker gave herself and anyone else lucky enough to have raised lots of money under those old rules a huge head start in the 2013 mayoral race.

I used the database set up by the law — and Quinn’s public disclosure­s — to find at least $250,000 in campaign funds she has raised for this election cycle under the old rules.

To be sure, Quinn and other contenders in the race for mayor are formidable fund-raisers; they have successful­ly raised thousands of dollars under the new rules, and I don’t begrudge them a cent of that.

But why should they keep money that was raised under regulation­s that the Council itself flatly decided were an invitation to corruption, or at least the appearance of corruption?

Straight away, the Council should amend Local Law 34 to make it retroactiv­e. This would compel Quinn and other incumbents to return the difference between $4,950 and $400 ($4,550) to people who are doing business with the city and thus remove any appearance of impropriet­y.

If the Council does not force this issue, then Quinn and other incumbents should prove their good-government bona fides and voluntaril­y refund this money.

The mayoral race must be fought on a level playing field — and nobody should get to keep money determined to have been raised from problemati­c sources. It’s time that our elected officials and the City Council stop allowing loopholes that favor one candidate over another.

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