Council Jihad

De Blasio Leads Unholy Union War on City's Campaign Finance Board

While CFB brass testified at a recent council hearing that it would not consider 1199 and 32BJ affiliated entities because of their divergent decision-making processes, both are widely regarded as supporting de Blasio's Speaker candidacy. They and all other SEIU locals have combined to contribute $18,575 to de Blasio campaigns since 2001. Much more importantly, SEIU was his family's prime source of income when he first ran for council.

But de Blasio's decision to force a quick vote on the bill—rejecting a CFB request that he wait until after the charter-mandated December hearing when the board was planning to consider a new affiliation rule—did not just please his union allies in the Speaker race. It pleased much of the council, whose members have collectively grabbed over a million dollars in CFB matching funds for noncompetitive races this year, but are still so outraged by the CFB that Queens' Leroy Comrie told the board's witnesses at the recent hearing that they needed to be "spanked." Staten Island's Mike McMahon derided the same witnesses because none had run for office or worked as a campaign treasurer, suggesting they didn't know how their rules felt at the receiving end. McMahon did not reveal that his brother Tom was the registered lobbyist on the de Blasio bill for the Central Labor Council, whose president, Brian McLaughlin, was one of the witnesses there to rail against the CFB.

De Blasio argues that the CFB forced this combat by promulgating a new rule in February that tried to impose an odious affiliation definition in the middle of the 2005 cycle, without listening to labor or the council. But he asked the CFB at the April hearing to withdraw that rule and by June it did, settling the controversy until after this election. De Blasio believes that the CFB's decision to move ahead with the Palma case after the withdrawal of the new rule breached its understanding with the council, though the violations cited in Palma were obviously based on pre-existing regulations, not prospective ones. He accuses the CFB of "zealotry," calling it "a bit of a star chamber," and he cites a long family history, involving his father, mother, brother, and himself with the labor movement as the justification for his action.

Brooklyn's de Blasio: Running for council Speaker, gutting reforms
photo: Richard B. Levine
Brooklyn's de Blasio: Running for council Speaker, gutting reforms

But the only real rationale for his rush on this bill is the Speaker's race, which puts de Blasio in the company of his former boss David Dinkins and former nemesis Rudy Giuliani, both of whom tried to punish the CFB for perceived wrongs. Dinkins tried to remove the Jesuit who chaired the board that fined him, and Giuliani tried to exile the board to Brooklyn. Fueled by the fines facing Palma's 2003 committee and a desire to shut down CFB audits of 2005 campaigns, de Blasio is so far succeeding where his mayoral predecessors failed: He is successfully slapping the CFB into council compliance, reversing the tables on a regulator every pol comes to disdain.

Research assistance: Jessica Bennett, K. Emily Bond, Ben James, Lee Norsworthy, and Xana O'Neill

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