New-elected State Committeewoman Lauren Trapanotto reports on her efforts to reform campaign expenditure practices at her first meeting of the New York State Democratic Committee on October 1st.
Before the meeting, I had been working with other reform-minded members prior to the meeting to decide on priorities and a course of action, with the most important being the mailer sent by the Committee associating candidate Cynthia Nixon with anti-semitism. This mailer was problematic not just for its shameful content, but also because of how it was approved. Both the Chair of the Committee and the Executive Director of the State Party have denied having any knowledge of the mailer before it was sent out, and no vote was taken by either the Executive Committee or the full State Committee approving it. But somehow, someone made the decision to create and send it with Party funds.
Progressives within the State Committee wrote a resolution calling for the Party to condemn the mailer, investigate how it was approved, and report back to the Members before April 2019.
In addition to the Progressive Caucus’ resolution, I took the initiative to draft a formal amendment to the State Party’s Rules outlining a process for approving campaign expenditures to ensure nothing like this happened again, and circulated it to other Committee members in the hope of building support.
The night before the meeting, the Progressive Caucus met with Executive Director Geoff Berman to address our concerns. There he acknowledged the mailer should never have been approved, that they still do not know who was ultimately responsible, and that he agreed we need a better process for making decisions of this kind. He also explained that the State Party receives a nonprofit bulk mail rate from the Post Office, so many campaigns donate to the State Party and then the Party sends a mailer on their behalf to benefit from the discounted rate. This is not publicized, and none of the Members had ever heard of this, so we requested more transparency about this, too.
At the meeting the next day the first order of business was the election of Officers & Vice Chairs. The Party leadership presented its slate of candidates and called for a vote, but one member made a motion from the floor that we vote on each position individually. He argued that voting all at once implied the leadership’s preferred candidates were the only options. The Chair ignored this motion and claimed the election was over, even though no votes had been cast. We adjourned after roughly five minutes, having not conducted any meaningful business at all.
Needless to say I was frustrated and annoyed by how this went. Arguably the officers were never legitimately elected, and we were never given the opportunity to address the mailer or any of the other critical business facing the Democratic Party at this time. The progressive members plan to continue pushing for answers and to reintroduce the resolution at the Spring meeting. In the meantime I will be working to build support to incorporate my proposed amendments - and hopefully a broader reform - of the State Party’s rules.