The Palma Case

People who care about campaign finance law, one way or the other, should keep an eye about City Councilwoman Annabel Palma‘s case against the Campaign Finance Board.

Palma, a former staffer for Local 1199, won a Bronx Council seat. Her campaign drew a huge wave of 1199 members and staffers, as volunteers, to the Bronx on election day. If you were there, the (in layman’s, not legal terms) central role of 1199 was undeniable.

Now the city Campaign Finance Board has recommended more than $100,000 in fines against Palma (though it as not yet, as I mistakenly reported this week, levied the fine) for illegally coordinating her campaign with the union.

This CFB filing has a long list of her alleged sins, charging that her use of 1199 as both a vendor and a supporter violates the rules; that she and 1199 coordinated on specific pieces of literature and used the same photograph; and that contributions from “affiliated” SEIU unions to her campaign violated 1199’s limit.

Palma, meanwhile, is not only denying the charges. She’s also objecting to the role of Board lawyers as investigators, snooping in her campaign office on election day.

Most important, she’s challenging the constitutionality of the Board’s attempt to regulate “coordination” and its judgement that unions are “affiliated.” Arguing that the rules are unconstitutionally vague, she sued the board in state court, and got an order to show cause.

A Board spokeswoman, Andrea Lynn, said they’re confident they’re right on the law. In any case, it’ll be an important test on one hand of the Board’s power and leeway, and on the other of the union’s ability to continue to seize certain local elections.