Saturday, April 28, 2007

Bruno, the Death Penalty, and Campaign Finance Reform

New York Senator Joe Bruno is making political hay over the recent spate of cop shootings in the state. He's advocating for a new death penalty for the state. The old death penalty was struck down by the State's highest court for violating the rights of defendants.

The most recent cop shooting occurred last week. A young trooper with a wife and infant daughter was shot accidentally by another state trooper while involved in a wild-west shoot out with a fugitive.

This shooting occurred the same week as new Governor Eliot Spitzer announced that he was going to push the Senate and Assembly to pass campaign finance legislation. Currently your average New Yorker can donate $55,000 to a campaign (yep, the cost of a fully-loaded Hummer), and there are limited regulations on Limited Liability Corporations, PACs, soft money to political parties, etc. etc -- the usual hodge-podge of loose laws to allow money to flow unlimited and unregulated into the political scene. Spitzer wants to limit individual contributions to $15,000 ($13,000 more than limits to federal candidates, by the way) and limit contributions from other channels.

Now, when Spitzer advocated this, Bruno made it crystal clear he thinks campaign finance reform is bullshit. He characterized Spitzer's proposal as a violation of freedom of speech.

Bruno doesn't know his constitutional law, though. The U.S. Supreme court made it clear in 1979 in Buckley V. Valeo that there is no violation of free speech by limiting contributions to campaigns. There is a violation if there are caps on how much candidates can spend if they do not take matching funds - but that's not what Spitzer is proposing.

And, frankly, Bruno doesn't care about constitutional law. He's just throwing every half-baked argument at campaign finance reform, because he doesn't want to stem the flow of taint that pervades the New York State political process.

My favorite Bruno half-baked argument came on Thursday when he argued that the state should pass a cop-killer death penalty, and that Spitzer didn't have his priorities straight by advocating for campaign finance reform rather than a death penalty. He was quoted in the Albany Times Union saying: "What is more important than protecting the lives of law enforcement officers? Is campaign finance reform more important than that? I don't think so."

What's wrong with this argument? Well, I'll tell you. :-) It sets up a dilemma between the death penalty and campaign finance reform. But, it's an utterly FALSE dilemma. What, the Senate can't handle more than one policy initiative a year? It's so stupid.

I can't figure out why the people of Bruno's district put up with this crap. I write angry letters to MY state Senator complaining about Bruno (not that Neil Breslin can do much of anything about it, since he's in the opposite party, but still). I look forward to the day when that man loses his bully pulpit. To my mind, he is a perfect symbol for what is wrong with politics in this state.


Some Guy said...

Hey sister, I did not know you had a blog. I'm a mysterious friend from up north of Boston.

Aren't state senators encouraged to be inflammatory? And a certain percentage required to be consitutionally illiterate?

What's a state senate good for if it does not have a sturdy ratio of nitwits and rhetorical bomb-throwers?

Our anti-tax crowd is a pack of miscreant nutjobs who would rather let buildings burn and children learn to read from packs of gum than propose meaningful tax reform. Better to slash the budget to MAKE A POINT. Something reminiscent of domestic batterers in their swagger.

Anonymous said...

What is better is this quote from Bruno, when talking about Spitzer's campaign finance proposal on the Fred Dicker show (another topic entirely).

"That’s what governing is all about. It’s influencing people and seeing your way. We are elected representatives. We are not independent dictators each in our own districts. So what do you do? You listen to people. You get their input. You get their counsel.”

So - money influences people? But influencing people (via money) is what democracy is all about. So, therefore, those who seek to limit camaign contributions hate democracy.

Jenny Stromer-Galley said...

I had meant to post a note a few days later criticizing Spitzer for taking the sort of fundraising for his 2010 campaign ALREADY. He's being labeled a hypocrite with good reason. But, the semester got in the way.

But, having said that, I love the logic you, "anonymous," have offered:

Money influences democracy. Some people want to limit money's influence. Therefore, those who want to limit contributions hate democracy.

I guess I don't buy the first claim that "money buys democracy." Indeed, I'm not even sure what the claim is or what it means. How does "money buy democracy." What does such a thing look like. Specifically, what does "democracy" mean in this premise? Is the "democracy" in the first sentence the same thing as "democracy" in the "logical" conclusion?