The New York Times
Ferrer Adviser Is Being Paid to Lobby the Legislature Against Paper Ballots
By MICHAEL SLACKMAN
chief political adviser for Fernando Ferrer accepted
a $120,000-a-year contract last month to lobby state lawmakers to block passage
of legislation in
Roberto Ramirez, a longtime adviser and aide to Mr. Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president, is a partner in a company, Mirram Global, that is being paid $10,000 a month by VoteHere Inc. of Bellevue, Wash., in part, to "prevent a new law that requires paper ballots," according to a contract on file with the New York Temporary State Commission on Lobbying.
Mr. Ramirez has tried to neutralize any conflict between his role as a lobbyist for various special interests and his job as a political consultant by saying that if Mr. Ferrer is elected mayor, he will not lobby City Hall, the mayor or any city agencies.
And while the type of ballots to use is before the State Legislature and not city government, the discussions will put Mr. Ferrer's chief adviser in the middle of two highly charged political issues.
the same time, lawmakers in
Businesses, like the company Mr. Ramirez is representing, are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to push the State Legislature to allow for computer-based touch-screen voting machines. Other groups, like the League of Women Voters of New York State, have called for using optical scanners, which would require voters to first fill out a paper ballot, a system that would be less lucrative for the manufacturers of these products.
In his contract with VoteHere, Mr. Ramirez is called on to help persuade state lawmakers to push for legislation "requiring or permitting receipt-based verification," which would allow for voting machines that operate like a bank A.T.M., providing a receipt after a transaction.
Mr. Ferrer's spokesman, Chad Clanton, said yesterday that Mr. Ferrer wanted to see "paper backup on every vote cast on electronic voting machines," though he did not say whether that meant a ballot or a receipt.
Mr. Ramirez's aides say that his private business dealings should not reflect on Mr. Ferrer's campaign and that this case, in particular, should not be linked to Mr. Ferrer because it involves lobbying state government.
"We work with clients who share our values and our principles and we are very proud to work with VoteHere," said Jen Bluestein, a vice president and spokeswoman for Mirram Global.
Mr. Ferrer and Mr. Ramirez together have a stake in the integrity of the state's voting system. In 2001, both made an issue of that system, with Mr. Ferrer refusing to endorse Mark Green, who defeated Mr. Ferrer in a run-off primary, until issues concerning ballot counts were resolved.
this case, state lawmakers are being asked to choose between two types of
voting machines. While there is no consensus in
VoteHere is a small start-up company that produces audit software that it says would assure the accuracy of electronic voting without paper ballots and would be as safe as electronic banking.
"This is the problem of modern-day American politics," said Blair Horner, legislative director for the New York Public Interest Research Group, who has monitored state government activities for decades. "Lobbyists, campaign fund-raisers and campaign managers are often all the same people - and it creates an obvious conflict of interest."
Mr. Ferrer is not the only candidate for mayor whose political advisers have also worked as lobbyists. The speaker of the City Council, Gifford Miller, who also is running for mayor, has paid the Parkside Group for political work - even while it was lobbying him directly.
"Mr. Ferrer has made policy decisions independently throughout his career," Mr. Clanton said. "There are no exceptions. That goes for Mr. Ramirez or anyone else."
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of political, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.