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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

You've Come a Long Way, Baby - Now Gimme the Checkbook

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As Mike McIntire reports in The New York Times, wealthy folks with business interests in the Big Apple are using their spouses to double their political contributions - in some cases without those spouses' knowledge. This phenomenon has catapulted "homemakers" (self-described) to the top of occupations that contribute the maximum $4,950 to NYC mayoral candidates.

Just to be clear here, there is nothing wrong with both members of a married couple making contributions to the same candidate out of the same account. But when a husband makes a contribution in his wife's name without his wife's knowledge, there is more at stake than a marital squabble over finances - it's illegal.

It doesn't matter whether it's husband/wife (or wife/husband), employer/employee, or any other relationship, making contributions in another person's name without their knowledge is money laundering. For example, Charles Kushner, the notorious bad apple from New Jersey, was fined more than $500,000 for making contributions from some 40 partnerships without telling his partners (page 3). Similarly, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission recently fined developer Mark Alan Abrams $270,000 for making contributions to the 2001 campaigns of Mayor James Hahn and two of his allies in the name of associates and employees of Abrams.

And when those amounts aggregate to more than the contribution limit for one person, as two political contributions for the maximum allowable amount do, it violates contribution limits as well.

In addition to a willingness to engage in money laundering, it takes a particular brand of chutzpah to presume that you can make political decisions and contributions for another person. With these kinds of attitudes stretching from the Big Apple to the City of Angels, it may be time for requiring campaign finance disclosure at the dinner table.

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