The Database Divide


The greatest obstacle to a Campaign Finance Board agreement with the Bloomberg administration on a reform reducing contributions from those doing business with the city is a database.

The CFB and top city officials have been meeting for months to try to craft a rule change that both parties agree can be done without City Council action. The CFB is adamant that the city must give it a database of those covered by the new language—contractors, developers, and others—while Bloomberg believes candidates and donors should be responsible for enforcing any new regulations.

Bill Cunningham, the mayor’s communications chief, likens the proposed new system to the CFB’s requirement that candidates disclose the employer and address of each donor. “Why can’t the candidate also ask contributors to disclose any company they own 10 percent of that does business with the city?” asks Cunningham. Cunningham says the city has offered the CFB “VENDEX and all other city databases available,” but he acknowledges that none of those list all significant shareholders. That would leave the CFB with no ability to factually determine who was bound by the new $250 contribution limit and who could give the ordinary $4,950 maximum.

With innovative legal thinkers on both sides of this table, and the continuing opportunity to adjust and refine the new system in the coming years, there should be some way of both improving the accessible city data and relying, at least initially, on some self-policing. The question is: Where’s the will to find that middle ground?

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 23, 2004

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