Campaign Finance Executive Director Resigns
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The Campaign Finance Board can expect some heavy lobbying from City Council members now that its long-time executive director is stepping down.
Nicole Gordon announced her resignation yesterday, touching off a wave of speculation in government circles about whom the board will choose to replace her and what signal that appointment will send.
Ms. Gordon – who has served as the CFB’s executive director since the board was established in 1988 and has been one of the key forces behind the board’s policies – will depart in September to take a position at the JEHT Foundation, which, among other things, works to ensure fair elections.
She said that while candidates have criticized the CFB for its stringent compliance requirements, the board has a responsibility to make sure campaign money is being properly spent because it doles out millions of public dollars to candidates. “A lot of people understand that we hold candidates to high, high standards, and sometimes that is challenging. But in the end it makes for a fairer set of elections for the benefit of the city,” Ms. Gordon said.
While Ms.Gordon is well respected by many colleagues, council members and other candidates for office have increasingly viewed the CFB as overzealous and criticized it for letting audits drag on and for levying fines on relatively minor infractions.They say running for office under the CFB system requires a hefty political infrastructure that many newcomers simply don’t have.
Ms. Gordon said fines for things such as late disclosures, over-the-limit contributions, and improper receipts are “cut and dried.” The overwhelming majority of candidates comply with CFB rules, but “people who drive cars are going to get parking tickets sometimes,”she said.
The chairman of the council’s government operations committee, Simcha Felder, said that while the CFB is made up of “sticklers,” Ms. Gordon has been objective, honest, and devoted.
He called for the board to be abolished and said public money should not be dispensed. Others disagree, saying New York has one of the most comprehensive public financing programs in the country.
The once cozy relationship between the council and the CFB has soured recently. The two entities locked horns when the board proposed clarifying its rules to prevent public candidates from accepting contributions from different chapters of the same umbrella union.
Council Member Robert Jackson said the board will “fight you tooth and nail” and that you need a “pit bull for a lawyer” to get true protection from the board, which a lot of political newcomers don’t have.
The executive director of the Citizens Union, Dick Dadey, predicted that there would be an effort by the council to lobby for someone more “cooperative” to replace Ms. Gordon, but that a cozy relationship probably wouldn’t last.
“We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that hers is a regulatory agency and there will always be a healthy amount of tension no matter who fills Nicole Gordon’s shoes,” he said.