© 1997 New York Times
July 24, 1997 · Editorial

N.Y. Democrats list GOP donors on Web site


ALBANY, N.Y. (July 24, 1997 10:15 a.m. EDT) -- For years, political leaders in Albany have resisted disclosing information about their campaign contributions on computer disk, a seemingly simple reform with potentially far-reaching implications. But, like it or not, their rivals are beginning to do it for them.

On Wednesday, in a move that was part grandstanding, part public service and part political prank, the New York State Democratic Committee put onto its Web site a list of all the contributors this year to Gov. George Pataki and the state Republican Committee.

Now, with a few key strokes, anyone with a computer and modem can download the Republican committee and governor's contributor lists from the Democratic site and, using a spreadsheet program, sort it any number of ways to track the abundant flow of money ($4.9 million in just seven months) into the Republicans' coffers.

People wanting to study the list of Pataki's contributors will find the Democrats' Web site especially helpful, since the reports that the governor files with the state Board of Elections are confusingly sorted alphabetically by first name and are printed in type so small that a magnifying glass is sometimes needed to read them.

The Democrats, who have raised just $544,000 this year and who are fully expecting to lose the fund-raising battle to the Republicans in 1998, have also put their own 1997 campaign finance reports onto their Web site.

And they will send to anyone who asks, free of charge, a floppy disk or e-mail message containing either the Republican or Democratic reports.

Peter Ragone, a spokesman for the Democrats, said the party computerized the Republicans' lists in part to underscore how simple and inexpensive the process is: It was done in one day by three volunteers. He said the Democrats plan to update the Web site each time the Republicans file new reports.

"We set a precedent here," Ragone said. "When we do return to the times when we are raising millions of dollars again, we will continue to do it."

Republicans were not amused. "It's obvious they have nothing better to do," said Zenia Mucha, Pataki's director of communications.

Mucha said that Pataki would sign a bill requiring candidates for state and possibly local offices to disclose their campaign finance reports on computer disk if the Legislature passed such a bill.

But there's the rub: The measure is hopelessly mired in partisan bickering, with Republicans -- including Pataki -- insisting that a bill include tougher limits on contributions by unions. Democrats have objected to that proposal, since unions have historically been major contributors to their campaigns.

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