The truism is that if you run for president, you can double your asking price for speeches and someone may actually publish your campaign biography. There are ancillary benefits to running for public office so that people do it even when they don’t seriously intend to win. (There’s a comedy premise buried lightly in there.)
Former failed NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio had a failed presidential campaign, planned to run for governor and then didn’t, tried to run for Congress and just dropped out.
It’s easy to poke fun at the leftist who wrecked New York City, but maybe he’s not as hapless as he seems.
Twice in the last eight months former Mayor Bill de Blasio has publicly flirted with a run for office, first openly talking about his desire to be elected governor and then launching a run for Congress.
Twice he’s bowed out after just a few weeks.
Some might see that as a political debacle, but between those two failed candidacies, de Blasio has succeeded in raising a bundle of cash with nearly $700,000 that he gets to keep.
What he will do with all that money depends on a complicated and murky set of campaign finance rules and regulations.
At last count, de Blasio still owes $425,000 to a lobbyist law firm that represented him when he was the mayor and the Manhattan U.S. attorney and Manhattan district attorney investigated allegations of pay-to-play.
And the city Department of Investigation found he owes another $320,000 to the taxpayers for using an NYPD detail during his ill-fated run for the White House in 2020.
As of Friday, he still had just under $245,000 in his gubernatorial exploratory committee, New Yorkers for a Fair Future, and $450,000 in his congressional campaign. Some of that money came from donors who featured prominently in de Blasio’s past ethically challenged fundraising ventures, THE CITY reported this week.
“De Blasio spent less than 15% of the more-than $500,000 that he raised for his Congressional run, which itself strongly suggests that de Blasio has been using his purported Congressional run to build a war chest to use as a slush fund to pay off outstanding liabilities,” said Aaron Foldenauer, an election and campaign finance lawyer who ran his own long-shot campaign for mayor last year.
A basic question is do the donors know what he’s doing? And regardless of that, is it even legal. The answer to the latter is probably. Even if the FBI turned up a text message from De Blasio admitting that he’s running for office just to pad out a slush fund, I’m not sure if there’s actually a crime there. At least one that anyone is likely to prosecute. Politicians have ridiculous levels of discretion when it comes to how they use their campaign funds.
Is it illegal to fake a run for Congress? (Commenters are welcome to weigh in.)
Are the donors in on it? Now there may be a crime in that. But the question is what do they hope to gain from giving money to a guy with less political future than Chester A. Arthur and Martin Van Buren combined?
At least after this, no one may be willing to write a big check to a De Blasio bid for higher office. But stupidity isn’t a crime.