Ever wonder why county political bosses are so powerful? It may be the way that state election contributions are structured. County party committees can accept up to $37,000 per contributor, which is $12,000 more than either of the state party committees or the four legislative leadership committees, according to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission. What’s more, county committees are not prohibited from what’s known as “wheeling” in the general election — which is basically the ability of county committee chairmen to make unlimited contributions to one another’s party organizations. Thus vendors can circumvent pay-to-play laws, which limit the amount of contributions from entities that do business with the government. It also allows businesses to double (or more) their contributions by giving to two or more county organizations and having them share the donations.
ELEC is recommending the Legislature limit donations to county political organizations to $25,000 — the same rate as the other major political committees, according to Jerry Fitzgerald English, ELEC chair. (Contributors to municipal committees are prohibited from donating more than $7,200.) English says a restriction on wheeling is a priority proposal in order to restore trust in election processes.