Reviews | A town for sale: why campaign money matters

Riverhead is for sale.

We have seen the amounts raised and spent on the Riverhead election increase for some time now. But as out-of-town developers look at the fertile ground here, the campaign’s influx of money continues to grow as a result.

Developers who want favorable outcomes for their projects want to ensure that the “right” officials occupy positions of power in local government. They are doing what they can to make sure that this is the result of the local elections. And that means contributing the legal maximum to their chosen candidates – or maybe more than the legal maximum, if no one is watching.

Who can blame them? And who can blame the candidates who open their campaign coffers to contributions from people seeking something in return? It’s the American way.

We’ve all seen how badly money has polluted our political system – in Washington, in Albany, and even in county government. Elected officials seeking re-election raise hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars from contributors willing to invest big bucks to help them get re-elected.

Let’s face it – or let others fool us – about how this giant influence peddling works and how ordinary citizens and small businesses are the big losers.

Developers, law firms, lobbyists, and high net worth individuals don’t spend thousands of dollars on political campaigns just to be charitable. They expect a return on their investment. And they are generally not disappointed. Believe it, no matter how much the recipients of their generosity protest against the fact that campaign contributions do not influence how they vote on issues that affect their backers.

So when we start to see municipal office candidates raising over $ 100,000 to get elected in Riverhead – and we see the money pouring in from out of town developers and their consultants and promoters – we should be worried.

We should be concerned when Rand Industrial of Denver, Colorado loses $ 4,000 in an election in Riverhead – and supervisor Yvette Aguiar, who received the donation, her largest to date, says she “doesn’t know particularly “who it is or why they are donating to his campaign and takes offense at what we ask.

We should be concerned when HK Ventures, the developer of the biggest industrial proposal ever made in Riverhead, deposits $ 5,000 in the coffers of the party committee that holds four of the five city council seats.

And we should be concerned when a paid lobbyist for NextEra Energy, a large-scale commercial solar power plant, donates $ 2,500 to the incumbent supervisor’s re-election campaign 10 days before the developer’s plan gets the job done. final approval from the city.

But supervisor Yvette Aguiar was very offended that we asked if campaign contributions might influence her decisions, complaining that some of our questions were meant to put her “on the spot.” Well yeah. This is our job. And it’s his job to answer, because we’re asking on behalf of the people who live here.

But the supervisor told us that it was not appropriate to ask her these questions because she is an elected official. We should, she said, ask her campaign treasurer – who is also her campaign manager, as well as her husband.

I think it is entirely appropriate to ask the candidate – especially an incumbent elected official – from whom she receives campaign contributions.

This particular candidate has raised nearly $ 21,000 in contributions beyond her electoral limit from more than a dozen different companies, on the verge of raising more campaign funds than any other supervisory candidate since at least 2007. , which is the oldest data from the State Board of Elections. the online database includes Riverhead Town races. (Jodi Giglio twice raised slightly more than Yvette’s $ 111,000 and more in City Council races.)

Anyway, I’m just a journalist, not a law enforcement officer. I will do my job to inform the public of the facts, no matter who doesn’t like it, and I will leave it to the law enforcement people to do theirs.

Ultimately, however, they’re all part of the same system that works for the benefit of those in power – regardless of party affiliation – to the detriment of the rest of us. Public campaign funding would go a long way in fixing this broken system, but it is not about to happen because the broken system is benefiting those same people.

The current supervisor’s fundraiser is just one example of how big donors find their way into local politics in a small town like Riverhead. And make no mistake: she’s not the first. This has been the trend in Riverhead for some time, and it will only grow, as developers like international conglomerates and major energy companies hang on to Riverhead.

This is how our political system “works”. So when requests are inexplicably accelerated, while the full plan languishes and the codification of new downtown zoning and updated parking rules fade into oblivion, ask yourself “Who benefits?” ”

As former supervisor Jimmy Stark told me, “Follow the money, mate. Follow the money. ”

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