The Comptroller’s Fuzzy Math

It was more than a little disturbing to discover last week that City Comptroller William Thompson, the man in charge of the city’s finances and manager of $80 billion in pension funds, has been unable, or unwilling, to keep accurate financial records of his own campaign contributions. Either Mr. Thompson is hiding something, or he’s a profoundly sloppy bookkeeper. Either is cause for concern.

Mr. Thompson has been building a campaign war chest with the intention of running for Mayor next year on the Democratic line. But as The New York Times reports, $178,450 in contributions, from over 150 donors, were submitted to the New York City Campaign Finance Board with no information about the donors’ occupations or employers. Indeed, the Thompson campaign has not revealed the employment information of a significant number of its individual donors. Who are these mystery donors? Many of them are reportedly lawyers and bankers and others who could be seen as expecting favors from the comptroller in return for their contributions. Mr. Thompson, through a spokesperson, claims that there’s nothing fishy about any of this, that the campaign is just trying to catch up with its filing. But more than sloppy accounting seems to be at work. For instance, one Charles S. Brofman was listed as having given $2,500; what the campaign didn’t tell the finance board was that Mr. Brofman is president of Cybersettle, a company hired by the comptroller’s office last year to help the city mediate legal claims. And why did Mr. Thompson’s campaign not disclose that on the same day one executive of the Carlyle Group, an investment firm, gave $4,950 to Mr. Thompson last year, another Carlyle executive also gave $4,950?

Even if these are oversights-and let it be said they are very curious oversights-how can the city comptroller not keep records, required by law, about who contributes to his campaign?

We’d like to think this is not the way he handles the city’s books. Mr. Thompson should start paying close attention to his campaign finances, before he runs the risk of serious penalties for his failure to raise money in accordance with the law.

Laurance Rockefeller

When Laurance Rockefeller died last week at age 94 in his Manhattan home, he left a remarkable legacy of public service that will outlast his impressive success as an investor. As a grandson of John D. Rockefeller, he could have spent his life in worldly pursuits. But his true passion was for preserving the environment and protecting the beauty and grandeur of the American landscape. As the current resident of the White House has shown all too clearly, Americans cannot count on their elected officials to safeguard the country’s most precious and irreplaceable natural resource. Laurance Rockefeller used his wealth and influence to make sure that large tracts of America would never be spoiled by short-term business interests and the politicians who coddle those interests.

In pursuit of what he called the “creation of a conservation ethic in America,” Rockefeller founded the American Conservation Association and gave hundreds of thousands of acres of land for preservation. He funded the creation and expansion of national parks throughout the country, including New York, California, Wyoming, Vermont, Maine, Hawaii and the Virgin Islands. A few of his accomplishments include establishing the Tallman Mountain State Park along the lower Hudson River and creating the 50,000-acre Virgin Islands National Park on St. John’s. He was instrumental in a transaction that resulted in the 58,000-acre Redwood National Park in California, and in New York his advocacy on behalf of the Adirondack Park saved it from abuse by the logging industry. And to prove that luxury hotels could be environmentally friendly and profitable, he started RockResorts in the Caribbean.

It is ironic that while President George W. Bush continues to roll back federal environmental protections, his father, George H.W. Bush, awarded Rockefeller the Congressional Gold Medal. Upon receiving the honor, Rockefeller chastised elected officials for not doing enough to protect the environment.

Locally, Rockefeller’s philanthropy extended to cultural institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art and to medical research, having played a major role in the success of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Through his example, Laurance Rockefeller showed that public service is not merely an empty phrase, but a noble calling.

Happiness Economics

Rich men have more sex, right? Indeed, one suspects more than a few M.B.A. degrees were motivated by the widely held belief that material wealth equals greater access to sexual gratification. But new research in the field of “happiness economics” indicates that a bigger wallet does not lead to more sex or sexual partners. Economists David Blanchflower of Dartmouth College and Andrew Oswald of England’s University of Warwick found that while happiness does increase as one’s income rises-leading to speculation that money can, after all, buy happiness-sexual activity does not leap upwards when one’s economic status reaches new levels of arousal.

The researchers also report that marriage tends to make people happy, and that a single person would need an infusion of an extra $100,000 a year to be as happy as his or her married friends. That adds $2 million to your net worth. And divorce carries an emotional cost of about $66,000 per year. Subtract $1.4 million from your net worth. The study also revealed that relationships between gay men and women bring the same amount of happiness as that provided by a heterosexual relationship.

Surprisingly, the economists report that, contrary to popular myth, married people have 30 percent more sex than their glamorous single friends. We can hear the wedding bells already.

The Comptroller’s Fuzzy Math