2001-04-25 / Political Page

Vallone Set For Override Of Mayor’s Veto On Campaign Financing

By John Toscano

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his aides had a good laugh last week when City Council Speaker Peter Vallone at the last minute cancelled a vote to overturn the mayor’s veto of Vallone’s bill calling for $4-for-$1 public campaign financing for this year’s elections.

But Vallone and every candidate running this year will probably have the last laugh today when the veto vote is scheduled once again.

City Hall insiders say when Vallone cancelled the vote last Tuesday because absent councilmembers would have made getting the 34 required votes chancy, he rescheduled it for today because there’s another veto override on the Council’s agenda. This involves a bill that would benefit municipal worker retirees and their families by adding to their pensions.

Vallone figures, insiders say, that labor unions have been pressuring every councilmember to vote for the pension enhancement and will keep up the pressure on every one of them to be there today to vote for the veto override.

With virtually a full council present, it won’t be difficult to get the 34 votes to override the mayor’s veto on the $4-for-$1 formula as well.

Make no mistake about it, this issue of campaign financing has the mayor and Vallone really locking horns. The mayor, who has benefitted from public campaign finance help in the past, thinks the $4-for-$1 payout will be too costly.

But Vallone, backed by many good government advocates, believes that if we’re ever going to overcome the influence of big business and major lobbying in elections, then public campaign financing is the answer. He felt that when he authored the groundbreaking campaign finance law and he believes it just as strongly today.

Standing up to the mayor on these two veto overrides and several others that the council will have to deal with could help Vallone’s mayoral bid, too. He appears to be demonstrating his independence against a powerful mayor and coming out on top. He should gain respect as a leader ready to take on powerful forces in good causes.

SABINI EXPECTED TO SHOW: Among those who were not present to vote on the override of the campaign finance bill last week was Councilmember John Sabini (D–Jackson Heights). Sabini voted for the bill originally, but didn’t show up when it came up in committee for an override test. It will be interesting to see whether he shows up for the big showdown today.

ANOTHER CAMPAIGN $ HASSLE: The mayor said he’s going to get involved in another aspect of campaign financing—candidates receiving contributions from investment firms that seek access to city pension fund dollars. This is unmistakably another slap at City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, another mayoral candidate.

The mayor announced his new legislation after reports that a fund run by the Fisher real estate firm, which had received $130 million in city pension assets in 1998 to invest in one of its funds, had contributed more than $100,000 to Hevesi’s mayoral campaign. Previously, the mayor had blocked Hevesi, who’s in charge of investing pension money, from investing $1 billion in a Fisher fund.

The mayor noted that companies that are in the business of selling municipal bonds are not allowed to donate money to political candidates. "Maybe," he added, "the same thing should be true for people seeking large, significant investments from the city’s pension funds."

Hevesi’s response to the mayor’s gambit was that the Fisher investment was approved by the pension board and has already earned an 80 percent return.

SCHUMER’S PROBLEM: "It was either technical bookkeeping errors," as one source put it, or "some of the biggest fund-raising violations in a decade," according to another. Either way, United States Senator Charles Schumer (D–New York) must return about $850,000 raised during his 1998 campaign, according to a Federal Elections Commission (FEC) audit.

Some of the errors involved occurred when some contributors, limited to $1,000 limits for primary and a similar amount for the general election, gave $2,000 without specifying that it be broken down. Thus it put the contributor over the limit if it was applied to the primary only. Other errors may have occurred when a husband and wife donated funds which weren’t recorded as coming from two individuals.

The audit’s findings must now be acted upon by the full FEC.

VOTE FOR EQUAL PAY: With the exception of Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin (D–Flushing), who was marked "excused," the rest of the all-Democrat Queens delegation voted "yes" last week on amending the state constitution to mandate equal pay for equal work. The 137 votes by which the proposal passed included some Republicans; all three "no" votes were cast by Republicans.

STOPPING ‘IDENTIFY THEFT’: The sharp upsurge in doing business over the Internet has brought with it an equally large increase in identity theft, taking another person’s identity to gain access to personal files and credit sources. The Federal Trade Commission reports that 4,000 New Yorkers were victims of identity theft in 2000.

Both houses of the legislature have passed different bills on the subject and are scheduled to meet this week to try to write and agree on one same bill to be passed in both houses and sent to Governor George Pataki, who is reportedly in favor of the idea.

Assemblymember Audrey Pheffer (D–Rockaway), the bill’s sponsor, says there’s a need for protection against identity theft because "now there are sophisticated ways to steal your numbers and traffic that information."

State Senator Serphin Maltese (R–C, Middle Village) is a strong advocate for the legislation in his branch of the legislature.

EARTH DAY 2001: On the occasion of Earth Day 2001, Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D–Brooklyn/Queens), citing a new administration in Washington "that is hostile to the environment," called for a united effort to continue successful environmental initiatives.

Weiner declared: "At a time of blackouts in California, possible outages in New York this summer, inflated oil (and) natural gas prices nationwide and high dependence on foreign sources of energy, we need a smart and balanced energy policy now more than ever. This must include action to lower prices, increased assistance for the poor and a greater emphasis on energy efficiency and renewable energy sources."

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