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Public Campaign Finance

Robert Wechsler

Once again, the New York Times has an article today that touches on municipal ethics issues. A municipal scandal does wonders.

This time the issue is campaigns hiring relatives of city council candidates. It happens all the time, and it’s not illegal (in New York City and most of the country), but as Susan Lerner, the executive director of New York Common Cause, is quoted as saying, “It’s the...

Robert Wechsler

Campaign finance is an area of municipal ethics that is often treated as a separate field entirely. But they’re closely related. Both involve the conflict between private and public interest, and especially gifts to elected officials. The principal difference is that campaign contributions are a perfectly legal way of giving to elected officials, which makes the problem a bit more complex.

I began administering the...

Robert Wechsler

When we talk about gifts to politicians, we often talk about gifts of nominal value being okay. Buy a politician a coffee, what’s wrong with that?

But what happens when it’s the other way around? What if the politician buys a coffee for a citizen? One citizen, no problem. A few more at a fundraiser, that’s okay (and it's not buying votes, but rather buying more money). But what about thousands of citizens? When does something of nominal value become something with a corrupt intention...