By GABRIEL PARIENTE
The New York City Campaign Finance Board voted on Thursday to punish several candidates from the 2013 election cycle for violating laws established by the panel.
In their biggest decision, they voted to fine former Democratic mayoral candidate Sal Albanese $10,425 fine for what members called numerous violations of laws, including accepting a contribution from a corporation, accepting an over-the-limit contribution, failing to provide merchant account statements and accepting a contribution from a campaign.
Under these laws, candidates can agree to take part in the public funds matching program where candidates of any class may run for office and they are encouraged to finance their campaigns through small contributions, which will then be matched at a $6 to $1 rate for any contribution up to $175 made by city residents. This helps prevent corruption as most candidates get their money from special interest groups, and also allows average citizens to take a more active role in political campaigns.
“Candidates who join the program, as Mr. Albanese did, are subject to the requirements that all participants must follow, even if they do not ultimately qualify for public funds,” said Board chair Rose Gill Hearn.
Albanese who once taught in the public school system for 11 years, was elected to the City Council in 1982 and served southwestern Brooklyn for 15 years before running for mayor in 1997 finishing third overall in the Democratic primaries.
Albanese received his biggest fine of $10,000 for accepting an over-the-limit contribution to his campaign. Under the law, Albanese was allowed to contribute up to $14,850 for his campaign during the 2013 election cycle. However, he made three loans to his own campaign which were not paid back by the day of election. These loans came out to a $100,000 in December 2012, a $25,000 in August and a $30,000 loan in September 2013 exceeding the limit set by the Finance Board by $155,000 .
On his Twitter feed, Albanese stated that he made the donations in order to pay off his staff and vendors. At the Campaign Finance Board meeting on September 10, he claimed that the punishment was outrageous as his campaign didn’t qualify for public funds.
Board member Davis noted that Mr. Albanese had signed a certification agreeing to abide to the limits established by the Board. Albanese then got into an exchange with Mr. Davis saying that the law was unfair because he was not able to take part in numerous TV debates that damaged his ability to raise money because most people were unaware of who he was or what his views on the issues were during the campaign.
“ I felt the greater moral obligation was to pay my people,” Albanese stated. He then went on to add that, “if you guys want to fine me the $10,000 fine, but I’m a victim of an insufferable bureaucracy.”
But the Board noted that the late loans were made to pay his staff and that their reporting showed “that the bulk of the loans were made nearly a year before the election.”