Spin Cycle

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State 'loophole' blocks disclosure of campaign $$ in TOB vote

An oddball twist in New York's election law has hidden from public view all the private campaign financing behind last week's high-stakes land-sale referendum in the Town of Oyster Bay.

According to state election board spokesman Thomas Connolly, those who spend money to support or oppose a ballot proposition in a town or village -- other than in November elections -- aren't required to disclose their activities.

"This is yet another loophole that obfuscates the influence of well-funded interest groups," remarked Bill Mahoney, research coordinator of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

One operative guessed that the electoral fight over sale of the town's public works property to Oyster Bay Realty LLC cost the competing sides in seven figures. But there's no way to independently verify the costs incurred before voters approved the sale, 2-1, on Tuesday, with a turnout around 12 percent.

What seems especially out-of-whack is that Oyster Bay has more than 293,000 residents -- more than 43 of the state's 62 counties, where disclosure would have been required.

In August 2011, supporters and opponents of a Nassau Coliseum deal, rejected in a countywide ballot, created political committees as required and disclosed close to $600,000 in expenses.

In the Oyster Bay battle, neither side was willing to voluntarily reveal expenses for broadcast ads, mailings or canvassing.

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