The stench of New York pay-to-play politics refuses to fade. For the latest foul fumes, point your nose toward Brooklyn.
That’s where Borough President Eric Adams set up a nonprofit, the One Brooklyn Fund, in 2014. And it looks a lot like the one that got Mayor de Blasio in trouble.
As with Hizzoner’s now-defunct Campaign for One New York, Adams’ fund takes cash from donors doing business with the city; Adams (or his appointees) then get to decide where the money’s spent — and curry favor with the lucky recipients.
And he can repay the donors by helping them get what they need from the city.
The scheme lets fat cats flout city rules that bar donations from businesses directly to campaigns. From its start through March 2018, the fund has raised between $995,000 and $2.9 million, the Daily News reported, based on filings with the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board.
That’s not the end of New York’s pay-to-play mischief. City Council members recently passed a bill to roll back transparency requirements for nonprofits, like One Brooklyn, that are linked to elected officials. The bill would let donors doing business with the city give anonymously to charities that work with city agencies.
That will make it harder to spot conflicts of interest, paving the way for more political-favor-buying.
“The city should never codify into law opening the door to large amounts of anonymous, secret contributions,” said Alex Camarda of the watchdog group Reinvent Albany. “But that’s what they’ve done.”
Mayor de Blasio is expected to back the measure.
The city got yet another display of pay-to-play ugliness when the sanitation-workers union recently sent out a mailer urging members to give at least $1 to de Blasio’s presidential campaign to help him reach the 130,000-donors threshold to qualify for Democrats’ next debates.
Notably, the union’s contract expired Jan. 19; the new one’s yet to be finalized.
“Watch us get a sweet raise now before he’s out the door,” one member told the Staten Island Advance.
The teachers union sent out a similar appeal for donations. Their current contract isn’t up until 2022, after de Blasio leaves office. But he has championed their causes, like squeezing public charter schools that pose stiff competition for the regular public schools controlled by their union. They want that to continue.
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders, too, have reportedly asked members to chip in to ensure their “interests.”
Let’s be clear: Donating to someone who shares your values or who you think will make a good public official is at the heart of democracy. But shelling out money for someone to protect your “interests” is the very definition of corruption.
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