November 12, 2004

City Employees Weighing In On 2005
Donate To Possible Bloomberg Opponents

By Jill Gardiner

Most of the New York City police officers who have donated to next year’s crop of likely mayoral candidates favor Fernando Ferrer, while employees of the Department of Education lean toward C. Virginia Fields, an analysis of campaign contribution records shows.

The records suggest that about 400 contributions from city employees were made through mid-July to the six Democrats who are seen as likeliest to run for mayor in 2005. Those donations represent a tiny fraction of all the money raised. Still, their choices could be an indication of who will win the hearts and checks of municipal employees once the Democrats’ race to unseat Mayor Bloomberg gets under way.

The New York Sun’s analysis of the Campaign Finance Board filings was unscientific. It included all contributors who listed their employers as the City of New York or one of its agencies. Employees of municipal hospitals and the City University of New York were not included.

Unlike past mayoral candidates in this city, Mr. Bloomberg, a Republican who reportedly spent $74 million on his election in 2001, is not required to file disclosure forms because he pays for his campaigns from his personal fortune and doesn’t take donations. As a result, the historical trail of contributions that many mayoral candidates receive from current and future commissioners, political appointees, and civil servants does not exist for Mr. Bloomberg.

At least one of Mr. Bloomberg’s appointees, the chairwoman of the City Planning Commission, Amanda Burden, donated to one of his likely challengers.

Ms. Burden made a $250 contribution to the speaker of the City Council, Gifford Miller, in October 2002 – nine months after Mr. Bloomberg named her chairwoman, It is unclear whether she knew the money was for a likely Miller campaign for mayor.

Though campaign contributions are public record, city employees, at least those who are not appointed by the mayor in high-ranking positions, do not seem to feel leery about contributing money to someone challenging their ultimate boss. A mayor, government sources said, would come under fire if there were retribution.

“People who work in government have all kinds of associations and allegiances, particularly those who are part of the permanent bureaucracy,” a deputy mayor under Rudolph Giuliani, Fran Reiter, said this week. “It is not unusual to see them making contributions to candidates other than the person sitting in office.”

Mr. Miller, who represents the Upper East Side, has been raising money for a 2005 election for several years, and with $3.3 million, he has raised more money than any of his fellow Democrats. They are Mr. Ferrer, who is a former Bronx borough president; Ms. Fields, the Manhattan borough president; Rep. Anthony Weiner of Queens; William Thompson Jr., the city comptroller, and Council Member Charles Barron, both of Brooklyn.

Of the candidates’ combined $8.72 million in donations, $81,333 came from city workers.

Mr. Ferrer, who, in the latest Quinnipiac University poll, led Mr. Bloomberg in a head-to-toe match-up by 45% to 40%, reported 1,216 donations, including 112 from city employees. Seventy-four of those were from officers and detectives of the New York Police Department. Mr. Ferrer, who finished first in the Democratic primary for mayor in 2001 but lost to Mark Green in the runoff vote, had far more donations from police officers than did any of his opponents.

Many of his NYPD contributors have Hispanic-sounding surnames. Their donations to Mr. Ferrer, who is Puerto Rican and has strong support among members of minority groups, is not surprising, but it does not mean the influential Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the police union, will follow suit. Though the PBA has not made its endorsement, it has been in a bitter battle with Mr. Bloomberg over salary increases and will almost certainly back one of the Democrats. The PBA has given $3,700 to Mr. Miller – an indication that it may favor him – but unions often sprinkle their wealth among candidates, and unlike Mr. Ferrer, Mr. Miller currently has an influential position in city government.

The president of the PBA, Patrick Lynch, said yesterday through a spokesman that police officers often do not have enough money to make political contributions. “They barely get by on what the city pays them,” he said. “Most of them understand and are supportive of the organization and allow the PBA to speak on their behalf politically.”

The PBA spokesman, Al O’Leary, said he would not read too much into the number of NYPD officers donating to Mr. Ferrer. The president of the United Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, said the same about the donations from employees of the education department to Ms. Fields. Of the Manhattan borough president’s 2,345 donations, 112 came from city employees, 50 of whom were public-school teachers, principals, or clerical workers.

Ms. Weingarten said the UFT – which is currently negotiating a contract with the city – was making contributions to all of the Democratic candidates who asked, but she said it was premature to consider an endorsement.

In 2001, the teachers union endorsed the incumbent city comptroller, Alan Hevesi, in the Democratic mayoral primary then backed Mr. Ferrer in his runoff with Mr. Green, who was the city’s public advocate.

Ms. Weingarten, who last month was Mr. Bloomberg’s guest at a Yankee playoff game, said yesterday she had “never seen an administration that treats the teachers in the classroom with such disrespect as this one.”

Just as municipal employees differed in their choices among the potential Democratic mayoral candidates, the contenders also have received donations from different celebrities. The lawyer who famously won O.J. Simpson’s acquittal, Johnnie Cochran, donated to Mr. Thompson. An owner of the Upper West Side’s best-known gourmet market, Saul Zabar, donated to Mr. Ferrer. A founder of the famed Zagat Survey, Nina Zagat, donated to Mr. Miller.

The council speaker also received $100 from an employee of Bloomberg L.P., the company the mayor founded.