Saturday, May 22, 2004

Mayor Backs New Limits On Donations To Campaigns

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called yesterday for a law to prohibit individuals or companies that do business with the New York City government from making contributions to candidates for city offices.

''It's just too obvious a conflict of interest,'' the mayor said on his weekly radio show on WABC-AM. ''If you do business with the city, you shouldn't be allowed to contribute to any campaign. It doesn't take away your rights; you don't have to do business with the city.''

tyfMayor Bloomberg, who spent $73 million of his own money to finance his election campaign in 2001, has been critical of aspects of the city's campaign finance system, but this was the first time that he called for an outright ban on contributions from individuals or companies because of perceived conflicts of interest.

''The biggest problem is that anybody that deals with the city shouldn't be giving to the mayor's campaign,'' he said. ''Anybody that deals with the city shouldn't be giving money to a comptroller's campaign -- who oversees contracts. You just should not do that. The law does not prevent it and we should have a law that prevents it.''

The mayor's comments came two days after a report by City Clerk Victor L. Robles found that City Hall lobbyists had earned a record amount, $24.8 million, to press their various causes and issues last year. The Parkside Group, which has ties to City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, was ranked 6th on the Top 10 list of city lobbyists, with a reported income of more than $1 million last year.
Mr. Miller, who is expected to run for mayor in 2005, has also sought help from Harry E. Giannoulis, a partner in the Parkside Group, to fill a crucial position -- that of the speaker's chief of staff.

David K. Chai, a spokesman for Mr. Miller, said that the speaker would support a law prohibiting contributions from individuals and companies that do business with the city as long as the mayor ''agreed to participate in the city's campaign finance system and pledged not to spend $70-plus million of his own money to buy the mayor's race again.''

Mr. Chai asserted that the mayor was being hypocritical by trying to change a campaign finance system that he does not have to participate in. ''The fact of the matter is that it's the mayor and his Republican Party that's destroying our campaign finance system,'' he said.

William T. Cunningham, the mayor's director of communications, rejected that charge. ''Gifford Miller endorsed Howard Dean, who was the first Democrat to drop out of the campaign finance system in this country,'' he said. ''Two, he is now supporting John Kerry, who is also not participating in that system. It is very convenient of them to pick and choose who is being a hypocrite.''
Mayor Bloomberg also said yesterday that city employees should not receive compensatory time or be able to work flexible hours in return for attending campaign events.

The Daily News reported Friday that the office of City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. had told employees they might be eligible for time off if they accompanied Mr. Thompson, who is also considering a mayoral run, at parades and other events on a volunteer basis." - New York Times, May 22, 2004

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