Last Friday, New York state seemed poised to follow its marquee City into a campaign-finance fiasco by emulating the Big Apple’s public candidate-funding system. Luckily for the Empire State, in the end cooler heads prevailed and only the State’s Comptroller will be subject the scheme next go round.
While the “reformers” mourn a lost opportunity, Albany should celebrate. At the 100-day mark of his administration, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s incompetence has been exceeded only be his tone-deafness. And the disaster has been aided at every turn by Gotham’s candidate-funding mechanism.
The flawed public financing system that swept the oft-tardy Mr. de Blasio into office is a prime example of the IRS-type potential abuse inherent in a system that removes power from citizens and puts it into the hands of bureaucrats. It also serves as warning of the types of candidates that benefit from public-financing schemes.
A recent Wall Street Journal op-ed explained how New York City’s election board essentially paved the way for Mr. de Blasio’s victory by stifling potential challengers.
First, the board stonewalled John Liu, Mr. de Blasio’s progressive rival, by denying crucial funding and giving arbitrary deadlines for information. It then played Superman again, rescuing Lois Lane-de Blasio from a potential recount with imprudent statements regarding the not-yet-certified Democrat primary results.
Thus the election board allowed Mr. de Blasio to waltz into Gracie Mansion with a seemingly overwhelming mandate. It was an illusion, however; the realities of governance have exposed the flaws inherent in the system and the candidates it produces.
The theory behind public financing is it removes political influence from the wealthy, increases the clout of ordinary citizens, and allows the unconnected to run for political office.
But like any recent New York Yankees team, the hype fails to live up to expectations.
A mere 18% of New York City’s population voted for Mr. de Blasio. Instead of encouraging citizen participation, public financing seems to have sapped the City of its political vibrancy. And the system has made Mr. de Blasio beholden to the cadre of hard-left factions that put him into office.
Polls indicate he is on the wrong side of public opinion on every major issue he has tackled thus far. Gotham residents favor increasing or maintaining charter schools by 79%, 64% approve of horse carriages, and 54% don’t want to bilk ‘the rich’ to pay for “universal pre-k,”—what one columnist described as a “poorly articulated, barely understood mini-bonanza for the United Federation of Teachers.” This is in addition to being out maneuvered by his more media-savvy counterpart in Albany at every turn. Unsurprisingly, Mr. de Blasio’s poll numbers are already underwater.
The more social science confirms the overrated role money plays in politics and policymaking the louder the clamor from “reformers” for public financing.
Mr. de Blasio’s experience should be a “teachable moment” in the disaster waiting for those who take that path down Broadway.
By Paul Jossey