A lobbying group that promotes universal prekindergarten and other items on Mayor Bill de Blasio's agenda pulled in nearly $1.8 million in contributions, but donors don't and shouldn't expect anything in return for their support, the mayor said Thursday.
Contributors to the Campaign for One New York included yellow taxi companies, housing developers and unions such as the American Federation of Teachers and 1199 SEIU, or the Service Employees International Union, according to disclosure reports. The AFT, the parent group of the United Federation of Teachers, with which de Blasio struck a contract deal in May, donated $350,000 to the mayor-linked nonprofit in April.
"I don't think they expect anything, and I would never feel comfortable if they did," de Blasio said of the group's donors at an unrelated news conference in Canarsie, Brooklyn.
Many people backed de Blasio's mission to bring universal pre-K to the city with a tax on wealthy residents, he said.
"It's natural that some people would want to invest in that change and they did. But that's the extent of their involvement and there's no other assumptions," he said. De Blasio lost his bid for the tax but won state funding his plan.
A government watchdog group saw reason for concern.
"I don't see any way in which it doesn't raise questions of conflicts of interest and buying access," Susan Lerner of Common Cause New York. Such a group "subverts" the city's strong public finance program, which encourages smaller donations from more people, she said.
Campaign for One New York, formerly known as UPKNYC, was founded and is managed by de Blasio campaign veterans such as his manager Bill Hyers and the BerlinRosen political consulting firm, state records show.Asked what its next priorities, de Blasio said the lobbying group will probably support his affordable housing plan, his push for a higher minimum wage, the rollout of municipal IDs for residents regardless of immigration status and paid sick leave expansion.