Working Families is now spreading into other states that allow cross-endorsements by minor parties, such as Connecticut. It’s also trying to change laws in other states to allow cross-endorsements, also called “fusion voting.” In 2010, Democrat Dannel Malloy won the governor’s office in Connecticut by a mere 5,000 votes; he won 27,000 votes on the WFP line. He later fulfilled a key plank of the WFP platform by signing a paid-sick-leave bill into law.
But while it expands its influence, the Working Families party is coming under increasing scrutiny. In 2012, Brooklyn attorney Roger Adler, a Democrat, was appointed as a special prosecutor to probe allegations that Working Families had been manipulating state and city election law. Last year, a New York City grand jury issued subpoenas as part of an ongoing probe of the party and its tangled links with Data & Field Services, a company that provides campaign workers and organizers to candidates. Critics of WFP have charged for years that Data & Field Services (DFS) has provided heavily discounted consulting work for Working Families candidates, essentially giving them in-kind contributions without publicly disclosing it.
In 2010, Working Families agreed to settle a civil lawsuit on the issue but didn’t admit wrongdoing, paying $100,000 for legal bills to Randy Mastro, a former Giuliani deputy mayor who brought the suit. It also signed a court agreement that DFS would end its association with the party. But in 2011, DFS filed an appeal with the court, saying it had to remain linked with Working Families — by far its largest client — or suffer “extreme economic and logistical hardship.” In April 2011, state-supreme-court justice Anthony Giacobbe held DFS in contempt for failing to follow through on its agreement to separate from Working Families.
Mastro has said the party claims it “needs the DFS’s people there so vitally, so close at hand that they need to be there operating in the same office space with the same people.”
While legal investigations grind on, WFP is making progress elsewhere. It continues to perfect its Alinskyite tactics in New York: recruit activist leftists to run for office on the WFP line and the Democrats’, help them raise money that can be generously supplemented by city financing, and make certain they change election laws in the party’s favor. In 2005, WFP allies on the city council were instrumental in overturning a ruling by the city’s independent Campaign Finance Board that restricted union political donations. Frederick A. O. Schwarz Jr., then the chairman of the Campaign Finance Board, complained that the changes “create a gaping loophole for union contributions, undermining the contribution limits established by the Campaign Finance Act.”
New York’s loophole-ridden campaign-finance laws have been a happy hunting ground for Working Families for years. But now there’s a new sheriff in town, unaffiliated with the de Blasio–WFP cadre. The day before he left office as mayor, Mike Bloomberg announced a new head for the city’s Campaign Finance Board: Rose Gill Hearn, a no-nonsense lawyer who formerly headed the city’s watchdog, the Department of Investigations. “She has been getting worms out of the Big Apple” for years, the New York Daily News reported last year in an article highlighting her dogged investigation procedures.
Working Families may be at the top of New York City politics for now, but Hearn, and others, will be watching.
— John Fund is a national-affairs columnist for National Review Online. This article is adapted from one that appeared in the January 27 issue of National Review.