NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio was on the defensive Monday amid new questions about a pay-to-play culture at city hall.
Big time donors had hizzoner’s personal email address and were seeking favors big and small.
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer explained, de Blasio was calling for changes to the MTA as questions surfaced about big donors getting the inside track at city hall.
“The emails are sickening. I read them, and it undermines what democracy is all about. We’ve got to change the culture,” civil liberties advocate Norman Seigel said.
The release of emails that de Blasio exchanged with a number of deep pocketed donors seeking favors, has rocked the mayor’s world.
“I never knew them well,” the mayor insisted.
Well enough that Jona Rechnitz — who pleaded guilty to federal charges of making contributions to get favorable treatment from government officials — contacted de Blasio directly to invite him to his son’s briss, discuss an opera at the Met, and ask that a friend be named building commissioner.
“I’m all ears Jona. We’ve actually been looking for additional candidates,” de Blasio replied.
The mayor said the requests were typically answered with a rejection.
“What typically happened is they didn’t get what they wanted,” he said.
Rechnitz associate Jeremy Reichberg did.
The de Blasio donor asked that a $650,000 water bill be reduced.
It was, to just over $125,000. Officials said they discovered a meter defect, and the action was normal.
Published reports show that animal rights activists who gave huge amounts in the belief that de Blasio would ban horse carriages, emailed their displeasure when he didn’t come through.
“To tell this now after we just spent 500k is totally ridiculous. We are very upset, ” wrote NYCLASS co-founder Stephen Nislick.
So what kind of message does it send about a possible pay-to-play culture at city hall.
“I reject that notion. I reject that out of hand. People offer their ideas all the time. I listen, sometimes there’s good idea, sometimes not,” the mayor said.
The mayor’s opponents wasted no time in making their voices heard.
“It’s amazing that this mayor ran on a platform to get people out of poverty, and the only ones who have benefited are those who have been big donors to his campaign. The mayor is right, there is a tale of two cities; the mayor’s donors, and friends, and the rest of us,” mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis said.
Criminal charges were never brought against the mayor, but Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said he found that the mayor did intervene on behalf of several donors seeking favors.
A recent Supreme Court ruling has made it more difficult to bring official corruption cases.