De Blasio doled out appointments from spreadsheet of big donors – NY Daily News


De Blasio doled out appointments from spreadsheet of big donors
BY JENNIFER FERMINO GREG B. SMITH
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Tuesday, May 31, 2016

When Mayor de Blasio began handing out prestigious appointments to obscure boards and committees in his first months in City Hall, he turned to a system of cash for cachet.

His team assembled an elite spreadsheet of major campaign donors, powerful lobbyists and celebrities as candidates for the coveted slots doled out by de Blasio.

This internal spreadsheet — obtained by the Daily News — reveals a blatant and highly choreographed effort to reward donors and New York power players with high-profile VIP appointments.

The 2014 list even goes so far as to suggest that de Blasio appoint lobbyists who were and are actively lobbying his administration on behalf of their wealthy clients.

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At least 14 of the mayor’s top “bundlers” who used a legal loophole to collect big bucks far in excess of donation restrictions made the list. So did four early donors to de Blasio’s now-defunct lobbying group, the Campaign for One New York.

“Confidential notes” on the list reveal the candidate’s business ties, but do not highlight actual qualifications for specific appointments. They do, however, reference support for the mayor, sometimes in financial terms.

Candidates are described as “with us early on,” “did a lot,” “real deal” and “showed up early.” One states “decent amount,” an apparent reference to the candidate’s fund-raising for the mayor.

Politicians often appoint big donors to these types of board posts, which are typically unpaid but offer a certain cachet, and, not incidentally, sway City Hall decisions.

De Blasio, however, has for years criticized the effect of money on politics. When he ran in 2013, he railed against “the rich and powerful having their voices heard above the rest of us because of weak laws and loopholes that allow money to permeate our elections.”

The appointee list harkens to his earlier life as a political operative and shows how the mayor uses the power of his office to reward those who had sent checks his way.

The list might be of interest to Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr., both of whom are now investigating allegations that big donors received favorable treatment from City Hall.

Peter Kadushin, a spokesman for the mayor, declined to answer numerous questions about specific appointments and questions of conflict of interest raised by the list.

Instead, he stated, “The mayor has appointed more than 600 people to boards based on their qualifications and backgrounds to help advance the city’s agenda. That includes New Yorkers he has known and worked with for years.”

All told the elite list includes 97 names. It’s not clear how many were offered positions, but at least 43 accepted at least one appointment. Several got more than one.

The list includes the well-known such as actors Steve Buscemi, Cynthia Nixon and Anna Deavere Smith. Most are lesser knowns who regularly do business with the city.

All told 28 candidates wound up on the board of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, the nonprofit run by his wife, Chirlane McCray. Some also got slots on the mayor’s committee that unsuccessfully sought to bring the Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn.

Others won appointments to the city’s Economic Development Corp. board, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, a mayoral Workforce Development Board and the boards of Lincoln Center, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp., the Fund for Public Schools and the Queens Library.

The list included a “source” category stating who suggested the candidate. Most were put up by the mayor himself or his top aides, especially Gabrielle Fialkoff, co-finance chairwoman of his 2013 mayoral bid and now a top aide at City Hall.

Sometimes City Hall consulted with de Blasio’s campaign on candidates. With one of de Blasio’s biggest bundlers, businessman Anthony Bonomo, the list states City Hall was to “ask Elana Leopold before we go any further.” Leopold is a longtime de Blasio campaign worker.

Bonomo — who bundled $44,550 for de Blasio — was put on the Mayor’s Fund and got a personal sitdown with the mayor at City Hall on April 23, 2015. He could not be reached for comment.

Henry Gutman, a lawyer and in early 2014 de Blasio’s campaign treasurer, was an enthusiastic check writer to de Blasio’s 2013 campaign. First he went over the $4,950 limit, writing checks totaling $6,000. De Blasio sent back $1,050. Then, as he’s allowed to do, he wrote another $2,475 check after the primary for de Blasio’s runoff against Bill Thompson.

Mayor Bill de Blasio campaign fundraiser Ross Offinger.

In June 2014, de Blasio made him chairman of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp.

The list also reveals coordination between the mayor’s lobbying fund, Campaign for One New York, and his administration.

The mayor, who formed the group to support his causes, has been criticized for using it to evade the $4,950 donation limit. Campaign for One New York donors gave unlimited amounts as high as $350,000.

De Blasio shut it down early this year after Common Cause filed a complaint charging the mayor’s control of the group was illegal.

Real estate developer Douglas Durst and his daughter Helena were up for appointments.

The list obtained by The News shows that Campaign for One New York Director Ross Offinger recommended several candidates for appointments, including philanthropist Lorna Brett Howard, who’d just given the organization a $10,000 check. De Blasio then put her on the Mayor’s Fund board.

Offinger has received a subpoena from investigators looking into de Blasio’s fund-raising.

The list makes clear the very top of City Hall was involved in coordinating appointments for VIPs.

Alicia Glen, deputy mayor for housing, was to be consulted when powerful real estate developer Douglas Durst and his daughter Helena were up for appointments. Kadushin wouldn’t comment on Glen’s involvement.

Regarding the Dursts, the list suggested contacting Jordan Barowitz, a lobbyist for Durst who’d bundled $24,750 for the mayor. Barowitz said he was not contacted about this by anyone at City Hall; both Dursts were put on the convention committee.

Nearly all the candidates appeared to need approval from Emma Wolfe, a top de Blasio deputy who deals with lobbyists. Wolfe has also received a subpoena in the ongoing fund-raising probes.

Twice Wolfe gave her approval — “EW approves” — for the mayor to appoint lobbyists who records show were actively lobbying her on behalf of their clients.

Lobbyist James Capalino and another lobbyist in his firm, George Fontas, got an “EW approves” while both were seeking her support for a client’s proposed condo tower at the former Long Island College Hospital site in Brooklyn.

On the appointments list, notes on Capalino ask, “Do we offer him something?” while Fontas is described as a “longtime (friend) do something for him.”

Neither got appointments, but Capalino and Fontas’ lobbying of Wolfe apparently paid off. The Campaign for One New York sent out a mailer in support of the apartment tower Capalino’s client was pushing for the hospital site.

Veteran lobbyist Sid Davidoff made it on the list with the caveat “look up client list.” The mayor gave him a position on the Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The list also notes public relations rep Steve Aiello was recommended for a slot on the Jazz at Lincoln Center board “per Sid Davidoff.” Aiello, a big jazz fan, got it.

Davidoff told The News other mayors have appointed him to these kinds of unpaid positions, including Mayor Ed Koch, who put him on the rent stabilization board.

“Who are you going to appoint?” Davidoff asked. “Opponents?”

One donor on the list who didn’t want his name used said Fialkoff asked him what he was interested in. “This was not a financial appeal. It was, ‘You’ve been a great friend. Bill likes you. What are your interests?’ ”

The donor was put on the convention committee, but didn’t get the position he sought.

Mayor Bill de Blasio supporter Sid Davidoff, October 29, 2015. Davidoff told The News other mayors have appointed him to these kinds of unpaid positions.
Mayor Bill de Blasio supporter Sid Davidoff, October 29, 2015. Davidoff told The News other mayors have appointed him to these kinds of unpaid positions.

“It was nice to be asked,” he said.

Another de Blasio campaign treasurer, Barry Berke, from the lobbyist law firm Kramer Levin, also got a Lincoln Center appointment along with the Mayor’s Fund and the convention committee.

Developer David Kuperberg made the list with the note, “Showed up early.” He was a triple giver to de Blasio, donating to the 2013 campaign and his inaugural and helping him pay off 2009 debts.

He either didn’t get an offer or declined (he didn’t return calls).

Pam Kwatra, a corporate consultant, bundled $10,225 for the mayor’s 2013 campaign. She was appointed to the Mayor’s Fund, the convention committee and a slot on the board of the Economic Development Corp., which awards tax breaks and arranges financing for businesses. Kwatra, a corporate consultant to Prudential Financial, didn’t return calls seeking comment.

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/de-blasio-doled-appointments-spreadsheet-big-donors-article-1.2655041

Michael Benjamin
@SquarePegDem

About SquarePegDem

A former state legislator turned NY Post editorial board member, thought-leader, public affairs consultant and commentator, columnist and blogger. Michael has appeared on Al Jazeera America Tonight, NY1/Inside City Hall, FoxNews.com LIVE, YNN/Capital Tonight, The Brian Lehrer Show, The Fred Dicker Show, The Capitol Press Room, and The Daily Show. His op-eds have appeared in the NY Post, City and State, The Legislative Gazette, Bronx Times, The Troy Record, Buffalo News, and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. To schedule speaking engagements, email MBenjamin9@optimum.net.
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