Schiavone: Change campaign finance

As fund raising for New Haven’s mayoral election hurtles toward record levels, Republican Joel Schiavone ’58 has proposed several changes to the city’s campaign finance system. But Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said Schiavone’s calls for banning contributions from city workers and holders of city contracts are merely cover for a lack of support within the city.

The four-term Democratic incumbent raised a record $452,585 for his highly contested primary against state Sen. Martin Looney, spending nearly $400,000 before filing his last campaign finance report Sept. 4. As of his last required filing in July, Schiavone had raised $117,275, spending $77,265.

DeStefano and Schiavone square off Nov. 6.

According to campaign finance reports, $3,245 of the $106,430 raised by DeStefano from July to early September came from city employees, with additional funds coming from teachers and administrators working for the Board of Education. Schiavone’s campaign released figures showing DeStefano received $59,840 from city employees through the July report.

Schiavone echoed a theme of the Looney campaign, saying fear played a large part in convincing city workers to donate to the DeStefano campaign.

“Campaign contributions are extortion,” Schiavone said. “Basically you get your jobs, and in exchange for getting your job you’re supposed to kick back a certain amount to your boss.”

DeStefano strongly denied the allegations.

“That’s a patent lie,” he said. “His observations do not reflect reality.”

The mayor added that workers are protected from abuse by civil service and union regulations.

Schiavone called for a ban on giving by city employees, similar to the law prohibiting federal workers from donating to federal campaigns, but DeStefano said such a law was not needed because the system is not abused.

DeStefano campaign manager Julio Gonzalez ’99 went a step further, saying that Schiavone, who admits most of his large contributions come from friends outside the city, is trying to hit at DeStefano’s New Haven fund-raising base.

“You have a candidate who is being almost completely funded by out-of-town interests promoting a law that would make it virtually impossible for the majority of a city to contribute to a campaign,” Gonzalez said.

The Republican real estate developer also called for a ban on campaign contributions by holders of city contracts, a rule first proposed by Democratic Alderman Carl Goldfield in 1998.

At least $99,500 of DeStefano’s contributions were made by individuals at firms doing business with the city or schools, the New Haven Register reported.

Schiavone said he would like to see the Goldfield provision passed, but has doubts about its constitutionality.

Ted LeVasseur, Schiavone’s campaign manager, said he thought a prohibition on granting contracts to contributors would be easier to defend than a ban on contributions by contract holders.

DeStefano said his opponent’s proposals do not make up for what he calls a “lack of vision.”

“None of this speaks to how do you make for a stronger, better city,” he said. “I’ve offered a consistent program of choice in our schools and building home ownership. Obviously people responded to that in the primary.”

Neither side is done raising money yet. Gonzalez said he hoped to raise another $150,000, while LeVasseur estimated his campaign would raise an additional $50,000 to $100,000. Schiavone campaign treasurer Dennis Murphy said over $175,000 had been raised so far.

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