Thursday, February 8, 2007

Cross-Endorsement: Cornerstone Of Corruption

By Richard Blassberg

Last week Assemblywoman Sandy Galef co-sponsored, and spoke out on behalf of a bill intended to bring runaway election campaign financing under control. Not only would the legislation set reasonable limits for private, and corporate fundraising, but it would also integrate a system of public financing, keyed to a candidate’s gathering of small donations from actual constituents.

Reportedly, New York State currently has the highest campaign contribution limits in the country. To the extent that the proposed legislation may help to get a handle on the problem of corporate and special interests who routinely overpower the fundraising contributions and efforts of actual local constituents, such measures must
be explored and supported. And, to the extent that it cultivates a broader dialogue with respect to the state’s disgraceful election process, all the better!

While campaign financing is surely a very important element that must be reconciled in any serious attempt to re-
turn the process by which public office is acquired in New York to the People, it is not the only, and certainly not the most, corruptive element. The cornerstone of corruption in New York State politics is the practice of CROSS-ENDORSEMENT.

We, here in Westchester, are only too well aware of the fact that our state is one of only five states in the Union that permits that destructive practice. The United States political system has, for the most part, been predicated on a two-party equation. And, while it is true that third-party movements have enjoyed some limited success,
from time to time, such independent parties have run their own candidates. Ross Perot, who garnered 19% as an alternative to the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates of 1992, remains the modern-day high-achiever nationally.

Th e Independence Party of New York State actually ran their own candidate, Tom Golisano, for governor in 1994, 1998, and 2002. In his last attempt her managed to pull down 14%. Unfortunately, the legacy for Westchester of the formation of the Independence Party has been the establishment of a corrupt and cynical
machine under the control of Guilio Cavallo, a scheming and larcenous creature, who together with similarly motivated power brokers, Larry Schwartz, Deputy County Executive, Zehy Jereis, Chairman of the Yonkers
Republican Committee, David Hebert, former campaign director and mouthpiece for Jeanine Pirro, and former
State Senator Nick Spano, have virtually controlled the nominations for, and outcomes in, all major county and judicial elections for years by use of the “cross-endorsement device.”

Literally scores of candidates, many of them current office holders, and sitting judges in municipal, County, and
State Supreme Court, as well as the Appellate Division, Second Department, willingly paid as much as $15,000, and more, to Cavallo, and the so-called Independence Party Club, to obtain the Independence Party’s endorsement. It is shameful that this situation will not be rectified by legislation in Albany. Eliot Spitzer, neither as State Attorney General, nor as the new “Everything Changes On Day One” governor, ever once even suggested that this most fraudulent, corruptive device needs to be eliminated.

Instead, the task has fallen to the capable hands of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Michael Garcia, to investigate and prosecute Cavallo and Company, and to put an end, at least in Westchester, to the wholesale election fraud and thievery engendered by cross-endorsement.

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