What’s the big deal with the de Blasio “scandals?”

Christina Greer, PH.D | 7/7/2016, 11:35 a.m.
Ok, so everyone seems to think the sky is falling when it comes to de Blasio and the recent “scandals” ...

Ok, so everyone seems to think the sky is falling when it comes to de Blasio and the recent “scandals” plaguing various donors in his orbit. Maybe I will be the last person rearranging the deck chairs on this potentially modern-day Titanic, but I think these issues are more of a reflection of our current state of politics and less an indictment of inappropriate behavior of the mayor.

So here are some facts (and to be clear, I am in no way affiliated with the de Blasio administration in any capacity): Anyone running for office needs money. Donors come in all forms, ranging from the earnest to the downright shady. Modern-day media has made it much easier to find out the backgrounds of donors to local-level candidates. To be clear, we never had these types of conversations when Mayor Bloomberg ran three times, because he is a billionaire. Very few media outlets ever needed to investigate his donors because there were none; he financed his $100 million campaigns himself. There were a few investigative reporters who attempted to follow the money and media connections in the Bloomberg era to see where his private donations ended up. They wanted to know whether the donations were in the hands of nonprofits, clergy and community groups that would normally speak out against the mayor. Many of those beneficiary groups were radio silent for 12 years—just saying.

I also remind folks that Bloomberg’s billions were earned from his media empire, that is, television and print publications. I am not saying in print that Bloomberg paid to silence his critics (I am not in the business of being sued by billionaires.), but I do think it raises several questions now that so many outlets are obsessed with the de Blasio money trail. Where were you from 2001 to 2013, when a billionaire mayor had carte blanche reign of New York City?

So where does this leave de Blasio? Has he possibly interacted with some less than savory characters while trying to fundraise? Most likely. Is that a direct indictment for him and what he is trying to do for poor people in this city? I tend to argue it’s not. I hope I have not become so jaded in American politics that my understanding of breaking a few eggs to make an omelet may just be the cost of doing business in a city of close to 9 million people, many of whom have never known New York City under a progressive mayor. My ultimate fear is that the attacks on de Blasio will be larger indictments on progressive politics writ large and will have rippling effects in cities such as Chicago, Detroit and Washington, D.C., where people of color are being forced out in droves.

So I guess what I am arguing is that before we throw the baby (or the mayor) out with the bathwater, let’s ask ourselves if this mayor is actually fighting for the people who need him the most. If universal pre-K, curtailing stop-and-frisk and his efforts to provide breaks for working families are any indication, I don’t really see what the brouhaha is all about. But I’ve been wrong before.

Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University and the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream.” You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.