Bopp Backwards

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I could scratch my head until I hit grey matter and I still wouldn't understand this one. James Bopp Jr., a lawyer with a history of challenging campaign finance limits, has filed suit alleging that New York City's new limits on donations from industries that do business with the city is discriminatory against...minority candidates. Points for creativity, Mr. Bopp, but the logic leaves something to be desired.

The suit -- backed conveniently enough by business interests -- claims that minority candidates depend on business interests more for money because their base of voters tends to have less money to donate to campaigns. Wait, so the way to even up the wild disparity between white and non-white candidates being able to mount competitive campaigns for office is to concentrate even more power in the hands of wealthy business interests?


Richard Briffault, a law professor at Columbia University and an expert on campaign finance law, said the lawsuit appeared to be a “stretch,” particularly the aspects claiming racial discrimination.

“It’s going to affect everybody,” Mr. Briffault said. “There’s no evidence that Hispanics or African-American candidates are particularly dependent on lobbyist donations than white candidates.”


If Mr. Bopp and his suit-mates were genuinely concerned about leveling the campaign finance playing field for minority candidates and other groups who have traditionally been shut out by the private campaign financing system they would back Clean Elections programs at the city and state level in New York. Clean Elections, which allow candidates to collect small dollar contributions to qualify for a public grant to run their campaign, put power back in the hands of small donors and reward candidates based on their public support -- not their financial backing.