New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, once a champion for money-in-politics reform, has been caught red-handed. The New York Daily News has acquired a spreadsheet from the mayor’s administration with a detailed list of potential appointments to city committees and boards—and it’s chock full of de Blasio’s donors.
The list is littered with donors to de Blasio’s 2013 campaign, lobbyists who have courted de Blasio and celebrities who stood by his side, noting their level of involvement and commitment to the campaign and if they had heavily donated. Actors Steve Buscemi and Cynthia Nixon appear on the list alongside Anthony Bonomo and Henry Gutman, a businessman and lawyer, respectively, who had maneuvered around campaign finance laws to give enormous donations to de Blasio’s campaign.
All told, 97 individuals appear on the list and at least 43 have accepted at least one appointment by the mayor. It’s impossible to know, of course, how many more were offered positions but turned them down.
The appointments were pretty swell, too. Board seats at the Wildlife Conservation Commission, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Fund for Public Schools and the Queens Library are just of a few of the many positions to which de Blasio supporters were appointed.
The list is a real throwback to Gilded Age politics, when appointments, and even seats in Congress, were routinely doled out to the highest bidders. The spoils system effectively defined the politics of the era, until the passage of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act put the kibosh on political patronage. Nearly one hundred years later, in the shadow of the Watergate scandal, Congress passed the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978.
It appears we may need a new era of civil reforms. Appointing individuals to positions simply based on their level of support for a campaign, not on their merits or field of expertise, is detrimental to a functioning political system. De Blasio needs to review his history.