Thursday, May 24, 2007

Where "Pay To Play" Is The Order Of The Day

Donations To Town Of North Hempstead Supervisor Show Need For Campaign Finance Overhaul

Wow, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor, Jon Kaiman, made front page of Newsday today.

As Eden Laikin (we thought you were covering Hempstead Town, not North Hempstead. All of the Hempstead stories must have played out :-) writes, nothing illegal about it, but clearly, the potential for conflicts of interest abound, and there is no avoidance here of the appearance of impropriety.

In the political arena, the rules of “pay to play” have become a part of the landscape – so much so that when it comes to what is now an institutional norm, the public airing of everything from payola to patronage draws little more than a collective yawn from John Q. Public.

Are sweetheart deals tied to campaign donations? Maybe yes, maybe no. Still, the atmosphere created through a system that not only tolerates, but encourages, a pat on the back with one hand, and a padding of the pocket with the other, while not necessarily tantamount to a bribe or a payoff, is conducive to favoritism and cronyism that supplants open, transparent, and competitive government functions and processes.

Was Jon Kaiman wrong to accept donations from those who do business with the Town of North Hempstead. Well, not in the legal sense. Perhaps not in the moral sense, either (morality being more or less subjective these days). Maybe not even in the practical sense, given the premise that if you cannot contract with those who make political donations – and every business worth its ledger books makes such donations, often to both parties and opposing candidates – there would simply be no one left to do business with!

We have absolutely no doubt that the Kaiman situation is not unique. Certainly, it is nothing new, albeit definitely newsworthy. [Front page? Maybe on a real slow news day. But hey, ya gotta keep the circulation up!] Guaranteed that in every township in America, from the largest (which just happens to be on Long Island), to the smallest (we don’t know what town holds that distinction. You’ll have to Google it and let us know), there is at least an aura of “pay to play.”

Like it or not -- and we don't like it -- there is a quid pro quo when it comes to the business of government.

Until what amounts to the private sponsorship of public office – just a step above money under the table – is banned through the adoption of effective campaign finance reform (i.e., the use of public monies, sans private donations, to finance election campaigns), not only the process, but also the players, will remain suspect.

That Jon Kaiman was today’s “target” of Newsday [watch out – tomorrow it may be you] is not so much a reflection on the ethics of the Supervisor of the Town of North Hempstead. It was more of a reflection on a system that, left in its own primordial stew, has evolved into an all-consuming – of both money and morals – ogre; one that threatens to undermine, or at least uproot, the very core of democracy.


  1. The article was definitely a reflection on the ethics of John Kaiman since his personal code of conduct did not prevent him from wallowing in a corrupt system.

  2. Lets face it, The Town of North Hempstead is severly broken. Go ahead and try to reach the building department for anything. There is no way to get through to anyone. The best you can do is leave a message with a 311 operator who barely speaks english and hope that someone will eventually call you back. However, you are more likely than not to get nothing back from them. Walk into the building department office and you will see staff sitting around doing nothing. Go to the front desk and ask a question and the person you talk to will walk to the back, sit down and ignore you.