Dadey on Pay to Play

When I spoke with Bill de Blasio the other day about the mayor’s plan to end “play to play” and tweak campaign finance laws, I quoted him saying this:

“I’d like to remind people, and Dick Dadey will confirm this, the toughest campaign finance law in the country was passed by the New York City Council. It was not started by a mayor. It was not started by an independent commission. It was created by the City Council.”

I didn’t ask Dadey for his own take at the time. But the mere mention of his name in conjunction with de Blasio’s criticism of the mayor’s proposal brought him in for some sharp criticism in our comments section.

Here, via email, is Dadey’s response:

“In regards to Citizens Union position on pay-to-play contributions, I would like to set the record straight since many of the comments in the posts are factually incorrect.

“Citizens Union supports the adoption of strong legislation that would ‘restrict’ political contributions from those who do business with the city and has advocated for such reforms consistently over the past several years. It is our hope that the Council will soon propose and pass such legislation that the Mayor would then sign into law. We believe this is a preferable and more effective way to achieve the goal of addressing the issue of ‘pay to play” contributors than if the Campaign Finance Board were to pass on its own a rule implementing such. The City Council has played an important and necessary role in creating and strengthening the city’s campaign finance program. We feel that the Council has missed past opportunities to strengthen it even further, but one of the reasons that New York has a model national program is because of the City Council’s long commitment to it. The other reason is because of the way in which the law has been strongly enforced and the program properly administered by the Campaign Finance Board.

“CU supports “pay to play” legislation that would be enforceable and not onerous, but would limit the influence peddling that goes on in the form of contributors who feel that in order for favorable consideration to be given to their interests – like government contracts – they need to make a contribution in order to their interests to be in play, aka “pay to play.” We also believe that any legislation should not “ban” a contributor’s constitutional right to participate in the political process by denying them a chance to make a contribution to a candidate of his or her choice; instead we favor setting a low limit at which a contributor could give without being subjected to a “pay to play” restriction should they have business with the city. We look forward to continued thoughtful dialogue on this critical issue.”

– Azi Paybarah