He was also asked about the ethics of limit-less contributions by real estate groups and other special interests to a nonprofit group that backs his administration’s priorities.The summary from the New York Times:
“The bottom line is that the resources go to promote a progressive agenda,” de Blasio said. “That’s what matters.”
In the interview, Mr. de Blasio said he had no qualms about accepting contributions for his political fund from real estate developers and groups with business before the city, saying that he needed resources to advance liberal causes in an era of big-money politics.In other words, the end justifies the means.
“We’re in an environment where a lot of very wealthy, powerful people will use their money to reinforce the status quo,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We’ve seen it directed against me and directed against other progressive leaders around the country.”
Notably, de Blasio is using the status quo in one dimension of his mayoralty--accepting contributions from developers to his Campaign for One New York--to change the status quo in another dimension--causes like universal pre-K education.
And that's why Political NY in September noted that The transactional mayor returns.
But he has not necessarily followed a "progressive agenda" regarding real estate development, though, with projects like Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, he has tried to make it look progressive, touting "affordable housing" without acknowledging how much of it serves the middle class.
Looking more closely
If you look at the video and transcript, it becomes more clear.
At 24:46, a reporter asked:
Do you find that you [inaudible] – obviously the buck stops with you, but for political questions and assessing this political [inaudible] – are you – do you find that you mostly rely on yourself for advice in that area or are there other [inaudible]?de Blasio responded:
The folks that I listen to are the same folks I came in the door with – a mixture of folks who, you know, are in the administration, starting with Chirlane McCray, and through, you know, deputy mayors and other senior members of the administration, and then there’s a group of outside advisors I’ve been working with for many years that I value greatly. But the buck stops with me – I think you’re right. The mistakes are mine. I mean, I want to be very clear – I have to composite all the information and make decisions. And some of the times, it’s also me reflecting on whether I want to, you know, change the status quo or accept it the way it is. And, you know, I think it was clear in 2013 that my mission was to change the status quo in this city. Sometimes, you know, if you create a strategy and communicate it right, you can make those changes more easily, but other times, it’s harder. It – you know, I’m going to change my level of belief that a lot of things have to change in this city, that a lot of things should not continue this way, but I also understand the status quo doesn’t always yield so easily.(Emphases added)
At 57:17, a reporter asked about accepting donations from developers and others doing business with the city:
[inaudible] you talk about revisiting that, do you have any thoughts on [inaudible]?de Blasio responded:
I’m comfortable with that approach because it’s – it’s entirely legal and it’s disclosed – in fact, disclosed more than the law requires. And in this day and age, until we get a constitutional amendment reversing Citizens United, which is an imperative, and I commend Secretary Clinton for calling for that – and it’s something I’ll certainly work to support – we’re in an environment where a lot of very wealthy, powerful people will use their money to reenforce the status quo. We’ve seen it in my case and we’ve seen it in plenty of other people’s cases – we’ve seen it directed against me and directed against other progressive leaders around the country. That’s the reality of the times we’re living in – we’re talking about a huge amount of money. If progressive organizations want to fight back and defend the progressive agenda and do it in a legal manner that is fully disclosed, that makes sense to me given, unfortunately, the legal environment we’re working in. When those laws change, entirely different discussion.A reporter followed up:
Do you think those [inaudible]?de Blasio responded emphatically:
The bottom line is that the resources go to promote a progressive agenda. That’s what matters.In other words, no more discussion of tactics. It reminded me of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's defense of fundraising for his nonprofits from developers like Bruce Ratner, as quoted in 2008.
- "My job is to bring money and services and programs to Brooklynites, and services and resources require money and it's [as] simple as that."
- "I'm an activist and like to get things done, and that's what I'm about, period."