I just got off the phone with the executive director of the city Campaign Finance Board, Amy Loprest, whose agency found that Larry Seabrook’s purchase of things like furniture for his campaign one day before his re-election wasn’t really a legal use of the taxpayer dollars he received from the matching-funds program.
Searbrook’s lawyer, Larry Laufer, offered a defense of the expenditures, saying, “There is no provision in the act for the CFB to approve or disapprove any particular campaign expenditure.” Which is a little funny, since Laufer is one of the people who wrote the law.
Loprest conceded the difficulty of formalizing the determination of what’s allowed and what’s not.
“Short of providing a 40-page list of every single thing someone can spend money on and things you can’t spend money on, you know, there’s no way to make it absolutely clear. I think, you know, campaigns are always coming up with new ways, new legitimate ways to talk to voters and to run their campaigns. And you wouldn’t want to limit that ability for campaigns to find ingenious ways to reach their constituents.”
Also, City Councilwoman Annabel Palma, who used to work for SEIU local 1199, was fined $30,000 for coordinating her campaign events with that union, one of the the most poweful ones in the city.
From my quick search online, it seems to be the largest fine against any candidate for such an offense. A woman in Palma’s Bronx office said neither she nor a spokesperson was available to comment. I emailed a spokeswoman at 1199 and am waiting to hear back.
It is possible that Palma or the union could appeal the decision in court, which would be interesting. Well, to me, at least.
Here is Loprest discussing Palma.
"The second penalty was for not reporting that activity, that coordinated activity with 1199. And the third was for misrepresentations she made in correspondence in the course of the audit about the role and responsibilities for local 1199.
"As with all campaigns, the board audits all campaigns. We ask a series of questions. And in this case, many of the questions regarding the Palma campaign were regarding the role of that 1199 was playing in her campaign. And in the course of that audit, a number of back and forths between with the campaign were had and the board found some of statements by the campaign were misrepresentations in light of the finding that there was actual coordination between the Palma campaign and 1199."