In the midst of allegations of fishy campaign finance strategies, Mayor Bill de Blasio has been reluctant to open up about his fundraising and donors, instead claiming his accusers have partisan motives. His campaign is accused of violating campaign financing laws in support of Democratic politicians in the 2014 state elections, as well as granting political favors to fundraisers to the mayor’s own 2013 campaign. With reelection rapidly approaching for de Blasio, each whisper of corruption comes as a firm blow to his future prospects. Multiple investigations have arisen that accuse the mayor’s office of multiple illegal acts. De Blasio cannot evade inquiries, and should set the record straight by increasing transparency with investigators and the electorate.
De Blasio is facing too many probes to simply paint them as political witch hunts. The U.S. District Attorney and the Manhattan DA found these accusations from the Board of Elections serious enough to pursue themselves. The report from the Board of Elections says he colluded with upstate Democrats and city donors to circumvent campaign finance laws. The U.S. DA’s office is pursuing charges related to alleged kickbacks. The New York Post also reports alleged alteration of permits favorable to donors from de Blasio’s past campaign. The preponderance of charges demand a serious response from de Blasio and greater transparency by his administration.
Assigning blame and dodging the facts casts de Blasio as a politician with something to hide. Even if de Blasio survives the investigations, he will lose in the court of public opinion. Transparency is essential to maintaining the public trust, and a lack of transparency with regards to campaign fundraising goes to the heart of his credibility as a public servant. Regardless of whether de Blasio is innocent of the charges he is accused of, he will still need to restore his accountability with New Yorkers. In order to demonstrate commitment to public scrutiny, the mayor must open past campaign fundraising efforts to investigators and the public at large. Opaqueness is not just a cover for corruption, but a serious flaw in governance.
Whether de Blasio’s accusations come up clean or the mayor resigns, New Yorkers will continue to lose faith in the trustworthiness of their leader. Addressing questions head-on with honesty will allow de Blasio to repair a declining trust between himself and his constituents. Public opinion will determine the next step in de Blasio’s political career, and public approval will shape his trajectory. De Blasio must tread carefully, then, as the access to information on his campaign strategies becomes paramount in the eyes of the public. Should he fail this litmus test from the federal investigation and fail to recover from this blow, de Blasio could see his career take a harsh turn.
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