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Latest News - May 2014

May 27, 2014
EXCLUSIVE: Union run by de Blasio's cousin donated to political group that supported mayor's campaign
Source: New York Daily News
By: Greg B. Smith

Eight days before the 2013 election, the union run by Bill de Blasio’s cousin quietly made a donation to a so-called “independent” political group whose spending benefited de Blasio’s mayoral bid, the Daily News has learned.

It was the second instance of the union — UNITE HERE! — giving money to an “independent” group that aided de Blasio’s political interests.

On Oct. 28, UNITE HERE! gave $200,000 to the New York Jobs Now Committee, a coalition of businesses and unions that urged voters to approve a ballot question on allowing casino gambling.

On Oct. 29 and 30, the New York Jobs Now Committee spent $85,000 on a mailing that quoted de Blasio, Gov. Cuomo and a newspaper editorial touting the benefits of casino gambling.

UNITE HERE! funded New York Jobs Now Committee, whose mailer featured then-candidate Bill de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo.

“New York City will get additional revenue,” de Blasio said in the mailer. “It’s good for the city and the state, and I join with labor and business in supporting this measure.”

On Nov. 4, a day before the election, the committee paid $12,500 to create campaign leaflets and posters with a similar pro-casino message.

The leaflet highlighted de Blasio’s name on the ballot and text from the referendum that said the push for casinos was about “job growth, increasing aid to schools and permitting local governments to lower property taxes.”

Noah K. Murray/Noah K. MurrayJohn Wilhelm, a cousin of Mayor de Blasio and the founder of labor union UNITE HERE!

It added, “Vote Yes! on Prop 1. Endorsed by Bill de Blasio.”

None of the printed materials urged a vote for de Blasio, but the city Campaign Finance Board ruled that the “posters and leaflets were supportive of de Blasio’s campaign,” spokeswoman Bonny Tsang said.

“Both of them had the same image of the mayoral ballot with de Blasio’s name highlighted in yellow, thus clearly identifying him as a candidate for mayor with the yellow suggesting that voters should choose him,” she said.

I find it hard to believe that there was no coordination between these organizations and the campaign.

De Blasio’s cousin John Wilhelm founded UNITE HERE! and is its highest-paid official. He also was a top de Blasio fund-raiser.

Money from the union found its way to another “independent” organization in the mayoral race.

Last May, UNITE HERE! gave $175,000 to NYCLASS, the group leading the charge to ban horse-drawn carriages. NYCLASS then sent $175,000 to an “independent” committee called New York City Is Not for Sale, which spent more than $1 million bashing one of de Blasio’s top rivals for mayor, Christine Quinn.

de Blasio speaks during the grand opening and dedication of the UNITE HERE! health care center in Atlantic City, N.J., on May 13 as cousin John Wilhelm (far right) looks on.

Such independent groups can support or attack candidates but cannot coordinate with specific campaigns, because coordination would be a way for candidates to circumvent donation limits.

The News previously reported that the FBI has been examining the activities of New York City Is Not for Sale.

“I find it hard to believe that there was no coordination between these organizations and the campaign,” said O’Brien Murray, a consultant for Republican nominee Joe Lhota in the mayoral race.

Murray has demanded an investigation into whether de Blasio’s campaign illegally coordinated with independent spending groups. De Blasio’s campaign says it followed all rules.

A New York Jobs Now spokesman said UNITE HERE! donated money because some union members would get jobs if casinos are built. He said de Blasio played no role in the donation. UNITE HERE! did not return calls for comment



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