Over the past two years, $20 million has gone missing from the Manhattan blocks between East 61st and East 80th streets, from Central Park to the East River. The money wasn’t lost in the stock market or spent on an East Hampton cottage or one of Damien Hirst’s dead sharks—it was donated to politicians running for office. Indeed, according to a new study by the Center for Responsive Politics, residents of that gilded tract of the Upper East Side gave more in political contributions than any other ZIP code in the country.
Those New Yorkers ponied up $2.8 million for Hillary Clinton, $2 million for Barack Obama and $1.1 million for John McCain. They gave a hefty $3.3 million to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which then writes checks to Democratic candidates who could use a boost. It’s no surprise the DSCC pulled so well—it’s headed by Chuck Schumer, who can work a room full of well-heeled worthies like nobody’s business. Our senior senator’s fund-raising skills have been mirrored, of course, in his Beltway success, as he’s been widely credited with helping create a Democratic majority in the Senate.
Now before we start kidding ourselves, and patting our fellow citizens on the back for being the selfless financial engines of modern democracy, let’s remember that, as much as well-off New Yorkers are rightly proud of being generous with their wealth, the larger magnet here is power. New Yorkers are not satisfied just being rich; they also want to be important, and that’s one very big reason they break open the vault when presidential aspirants and other potentially favor-bestowing candidates show up for cocktails. This is a city, after all, that produces cabinet members and ambassadors, positions which often require an open checkbook as a prerequisite. We’re not saying those who achieve such positions are not fully qualified. We’re just saying that it helps to get your foot in the door if you helped pay for the door.
Our main hope is that the city will benefit from this political generosity, with federal support to come for our medical centers, cultural institutions and mass-transit projects.
Oh, want to know where the five runner-up top donor ZIP codes are located? All in Manhattan.