Here is an excerpt from an article in New York Magazine about a pending effort by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others to acquire the Independence Party Line for their use as a foil to what they see as the anti-business, Working Families Party.
The WFP has been an organizational success and has contributed to the election of Democrats all over the state, including here in the North Country with Senator Darrel Aubertine and Representitive Bill Owens.
This is another example of New York's unique system of "fusion" voting allowing minor party lines to be used as niche or boutique parties for the small group who control them.
Mayor Bloomberg has been generous in throwing cash to some downstate activists. After all he spent over $100 million of his own money on reelection this year.
For the record, Independence Party members who are active in Jefferson County have never received support from Mr. Bloomberg. In fact, Jefferson County Chair John Rice has been dubbed a running a "rogue" county for advocating candidates other the the state chair's choice.
With the pro-labor Working Families Party on the rise, a coalition of New York business elites is laying the foundation to counteract its influence with a political operation of their own. The plan is to collaborate with the Independence Party, which just backed Republican Mike Bloomberg, to push what they see as fiscally responsible positions. They want to help elect Bloomberg-like candidates statewide. The problem is going to be convincing voters that what’s good for the capitalists is good for them too. Their tentative slogan? “It’s Your New York.”
“The business community has never attempted to involve the general public,” says Matt Crosson, who heads the Long Island Association and is one of the group’s organizers. Voters, he theorizes, “have a general disdain for Albany, but they don’t realize how bad it is.”
The movement began taking shape after lawmakers in Albany passed a $133 billion budget in April, increasing taxes and fees by $7 billion and raising spending by 9 percent. Deficit projections have risen to nearly $30 billion over the next three years. While Governor Paterson has warned lawmakers that the state may not be able to pay its bills by the end of the year, the Legislature has spurned his attempts to slash education and health care.
It’s being advised by Jay Kriegel, a longtime Democrat and member of the city’s Establishment who started his career as a hotshot 25-year-old aide to Mayor Lindsay. Most recently, he was executive director of Bloomberg’s failed 2012 Olympics bid. (Today, he works as an adviser to developer Stephen Ross.) The new group wants to wage an assault against the WFP, which has become an increasingly decisive force in city and state races, and the power of labor unions. WFP, the major health-care union SEIU 1199, teachers unions, and hospitals spent about $15 million on campaigns and lobbying in 2008. New York State United Teachers and 1199 have a combined membership of nearly 1 million.
The idea is to use the Independence Party, which was founded by billionaire governor-aspirant Tom Golisano in the nineties and is today controlled by Bloomberg allies, to back favored candidates. This is also how the WFP works. It gives these candidates a second ballot line.
Challenging the WFP, which is allied with a sophisticated army of operatives, canvassers, and pressure groups, is not going to be easy. The Independence Party lacks the same boots-on-the-ground infrastructure. Crosson says his new coalition knows what it’s up against: “They’re very effective and entrenched. The business community will be playing a game of catch-up for a long time.”
-Excerpt from New York Magazine