Money Man

At the risk of unduly dwelling on one of the roots of evil, is anybody the least concerned about county executive candidate Pat Ryan’s mega fund-raising so far?

So far – and the cash continues to pour in – Ryan, the Democratic candidate in the April 30th special election – has reported over $220,000 in contributions. That is not a typo, though his Republican opponent, hapless Jack Hayes, might wish it so. Hayes, late to the race, has essentially reported no contributions in twice filing statements as required by law with the board of elections that he had collected less than $1,000.

Ryan, who raised $1.4 million in finishing second in last year’s Democratic primary for Congress, considers this prodigious war chest gathered for the most part since he declared for exec in January, as something of a badge of honor. And it is, to an extent. A candidate who can so swiftly put together this kind of fund-raising effort- in truth, an extension of his congressional campaign  – is obviously well-organized. This, in turn, speaks to executive potential.

But when is enough, enough? Ryan is waging a war of annihilation, metaphorically crushing an ant with a sledgehammer. I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Former executive Mike Hein averaged about $110,000 In contributions during his ten-year tenure and he was county executive, with a record to run on, in nine of those years.

In published reports, Ryan has attempted to make this unprecedented fund-raising effort, most of it gathered from outside the county, sound fairly benign. He is accepting no money from PAC (political action committees) or corporations, he says. But as even the casual observer appreciates, there are more loopholes in New York State campaign finance law than your basic ham and swiss sandwich. Corporate executives or their designees can donate up to $5,000 to a county-wide campaign, for instance. People or vendors seeking access, jobs or favors from government, will come calling.  Smart money never sleeps.

This is not to cast aspersions on Ryan – it takes two to tangle, as my mom liked to say – only to say that this kind of overkill raises issues we might better ponder.