Machine Politics Under McCain Feingold


Rep. Joe Crowley is set to be elected the new Democratic county chairman of Queens at a meeting of district leaders on Friday, September 15th.

The obvious narrative will be about Crowley picking up the reigns reins from his mentor, Thomas Manton, who hand-chose Crowley to replace him in congress. But the real story is what Crowley’s election means to the city’s oldest, and most formidable, political machine:It runs on patronage, not pay-offs.

Crowley is barred from raising or spending soft money thanks to McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation (which Crowley voted for). The legislation created a firewall between federal office holders money raised outside federal regulations — i.e. soft money.

What does a county chairman do for his organization if not raise tons of money? In Brooklyn, that seemed to be former County Leader Clarence Norman’s main objective (and downfall).

In the latest financial filing, the Queens organization spent about $200,000.

“I think if he can raise $6 million for the DCCC, he could probably raise the $200,000 it takes to run this thing every year,” a Crowley loyalist was quoted as saying earlier in this article in The Hill [subscription only].

The low overhead is one sign that the machine in Queens has found a viable way to operate outside of direct fundraising: work with the surrogates court and old-fashioned job placements.

— Azi Paybarah Machine Politics Under McCain Feingold