Hey, did you hear the one about Marty Golden and the social club dues he paid out of his campaign account, after the law was changed specifically to forbid this? No? I don’t understand. There was a big story about it in Capital New York. Don’t you read Capital New York?
Oh, it’s too much political inside-baseball for you, and CNY is only for policy dorks like me? Well, that’s ok…Bay Ridge has not one, not two, but three local community newspapers, along with their associated web sites. Surely you saw it one of those?
Oh, they didn’t mention it? It’s only been reported locally by the Bensonhurst Bean?
Fine. Here’s the short of it, as covered in-depth by Bill Mahoney for the soon-to-be-renamed Politico New York:
- There used to be a loophole that allowed legislators to pay for country- and social-club fees using campaign funds, which otherwise can’t be used for personal use.
- This loophole was closed when the most recent budget was passed.
- Marty Golden ignored the ban and kept paying his $202 monthly dues to a private social and athletic club near Albany’s Capitol Building.
- This was caught through Mahoney’s investigative political reporting.
- A Golden spokesperson claimed there was an agreement between legislative leaders and the governor that would allow social-club fees if they were used “strictly for business.”
- The Governor’s office said no, there’s not, and the law is quite clear.
When it comes to political shenanigans, this isn’t exactly a huge sum of money here—though I wouldn’t say no to having a monthly $200 expense paid from something other than my own pocket! But with Golden, this is part of a pattern of questionable ethics surrounding his campaign funds, both in terms of source and expenditure. Golden’s trouble following the letter or spirit of campaign-finance rules gets ignored by the local media, and that’s also part of a pattern, unfortunately.
Not all media organizations are equal. The Bay Ridge Courier, for instance, has done a reasonably ok job covering (or at least mentioning in passing) the more significant features of Golden’s potential wrongdoing, such as his blatant sponsorship of a highly exclusive real estate tax-break benefiting campaign contributors, and the continued use of campaign funds for events held at the Golden family-owned Bay Ridge Manor.
The Home Reporter and the Brooklyn Eagle, on the other hand, have done a very good job of avoiding any coverage that has the slightest potential of looking like criticism of Golden—or any other politician, for that matter. Because, why? Politicians are generally well-loved by all and are well-known for doing everything by the book?
Their silence is hardly limited to potential legal wrongdoing. They also ignored Marty’s infamous Ladyclass where he sponsored an etiquette coach (and political ally) to hold a presumed job-skills event (at the Manor, owned by his brother) that promised to teach women how to “walk up and down a stair elegantly,” along with other anachronistic views on gender roles in the workplace. It wasn’t illegal, but it was wildly offensive, and covered by everyone from City and State to The Frisky. But once again, it was too hot to handle for the Eagle and Home Reporter.
They’re even afraid to challenge politicians on simple matters of policy. Recently, I was frustrated by the Eagle’s willingness to give Golden and fellow legislators Nicole Malliotakis and Alec Brook–Krasny a forum to demand that the Verrazano Bridge toll be lowered, but couldn’t be bothered to get their formal position on a contemporary plan that would have done precisely that.
At least some of you found out about Golden’s use of campaign funds on his social-club membership through Rachel Silberstein of the Bensonhurst Bean—the first and so far only local news outlet (other than Hey Ridge, right now, obviously) to report on this matter. My main frustration with us blogs being left to do the local political coverage is that our resources for reporting news are somewhat limited; we both do a certain amount of original reporting, in our own way, but when it comes to this kind of political coverage, we are more likely to say, “Hey, here’s a thing Capital New York said that you probably didn’t see but really need to know about.” I would expect that the local papers, with more resources for original reporting, would feel obligated actually to do some when it comes to watchdog journalism and the elected leadership of our community.