Hevesi’s Temptation

As The Observer recently

reported, in 1998 City Comptroller Alan Hevesi approved the investment of $130

million in city pension funds in a private equity fund controlled by one of his top financial supporters,

even though the company had only modest experience. The fund, FdG Associates,

is run by M. Anthony Fisher, whose family

has raised more than $100,000 for Mr. Hevesi’s Mayoral campaign. Mr.

Hevesi says there was no quid pro quo, that he wasn’t rewarding a political

donor with a lucrative and undeserved contract. But the facts shine an

unflattering light on his record and suggest that campaign-finance laws need some tightening to remove the temptation that

seems to have ensnared Mr. Hevesi.

The Comptroller has enormous responsibility for the pension

funds of city workers. The funds in this case belonged to the police,

firefighters’ and teachers’ unions, as well as the New York City Employees

Retirement System, which represents other city workers. As the principal

elected official with authority over pension

funds, the Comptroller must assure their financial integrity. Prudence,

rather than politics, should guide investment decisions. As the city’s chief financial officer, Mr. Hevesi should never

have accepted campaign contributions from anyone running a pension fund.

Even if one allows that FdG Associates was qualified for the job, Mr. Hevesi

showed stunningly poor political judgment by doing business with a contributor

at the same time that he was trying to present himself to the public as a

trustworthy candidate for the city’s highest office. This is not to say that

other Comptrollers on the state and local level have not been guilty of

similarly coy and highly questionable deal-making. To dismiss Mr. Hevesi as a

candidate outright, and without examining the whole of his record, would be to

single him out for behavior that is regrettably common.

In response to the disclosures published in The Observer, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has said he will propose legislation to

forbid investment firms that handle money for city pension funds from

making campaign contributions to political candidates. The Mayor is no friend

to Mr. Hevesi and was taking advantage of an

opportunity to create some news out of the Comptroller’s tribulations. Nevertheless,

it is a worthy idea. Another solution might be to require all individuals

associated with pension-management firms seeking work from the city to formally

disclose, as part of the bidding process, all of their campaign contributions

to New York City candidates over the previous two years. This would certainly

give politicians pause if they are tempted to reward their friends and

supporters with lucrative pension-fund

investments. There is often no better medicine than public scrutiny.

Mr. Hevesi has said he would support the Mayor’s

legislation. If nothing else, he would know why it’s needed.

Pataki’s Belated

Budget

If you rushed to the post office a few weeks ago to make

sure your taxes were postmarked by April 16, you may consider yourself a

world-class fool.

Oh, at some level it’s probably good that you were so

civic-minded, and in the long run you probably wouldn’t want the Internal

Revenue Service nipping at your heels. But still, you live in New York, a state

whose elected leaders don’t seem to care about meeting lawful deadlines on

fiscal matters.

In what has become an annual rite of spring, the State

Legislature has failed to pass a budget on time. The legal deadline is April

1-no, we’re not kidding. And it’s hardly a

joke: As the Legislature’s leaders and the Governor’s office dawdle,

school districts and local governments must borrow money to pay operating

expenses.

This is no way to run a government, and it is worth noting

that George Pataki said as much when he ran against Mario Cuomo in 1994. Mr.

Cuomo and the legislative power-brokers of his era were infamous for long

budget delays and partisan bickering. Once in office, however, Mr. Pataki

succumbed to Albany’s dreaded lethargy.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Majority Leader

Joseph Bruno and Mr. Pataki ought to be reminded that they lose credibility

every year when spring slides into summer

without a budget. In 2002, Mr. Pataki faces a tough reelection campaign,

during which his detached style of governance may become an issue if the

state’s economy worsens. Instead of devoting time and energy to such non-state

issues as the bombing drills in Vieques, Puerto Rico, he should be in the State

Capitol, locked in a room with Messrs. Bruno and Silver until they come up with

a budget.

Until they do, they look like fools.

Happiness

What makes you happy? Many New Yorkers might answer this

question with something along the lines of “emotional security, pleasure,

physical health and being well-liked.” Yet an intriguing study by researchers

at the University of Missouri–Columbia has found that autonomy, competence and

relatedness are the true sources of

happiness. The team studied college students from the United States and

South Korea and discovered that a feeling of well-being arose most often when

the subjects engaged in activities which they themselves chose, which were

consistent with their values and in which they could excel. Being popular or

affluent, or engaging in pleasurable, less task-oriented activities, did not

lead to the same level of satisfaction. The lead researcher, Ken Sheldon,

Ph.D., told the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology that the study supported a theory that

“humans are self-organizing, living systems who need to have the freedom to

find their own solutions to problems.” He added that psychologists can use the

results as a “potential guide to the different kinds of activities a client

might engage in to be a happy, fulfilled person.”

While the American and South Korean students shared the need

for autonomy and competence, there was a split when it came to prioritizing the

qualities of self-esteem and relatedness. The Americans chose self-esteem as

the more important need, while the South Koreans chose relatedness. But the

researchers prescribed the same cure for unhappy people of both cultures: Each

day, “do something that you really want that also makes some contribution to

others.”