By: Erin Durkin
April 8, 2013
The mayoral race roared to life Monday when Council Speaker Christine Quinn lashed out at a $1 million ad blitz by liberal groups trying to defeat her, calling it an attack on the city’s campaign finance system.
Quinn then sent out an email headlined “What a disgrace," casting herself as a victim and asking for $10 donations to “fight back.”
Quinn said the unlimited independent expenditure by the group New York City is Not for Sale 2013 is “not appropriate” in a local race where the candidates are abiding by spending limits.
“I don’t care who the ad is about, I don’t care who the ad is from, we have no place for this type of independent expenditure in New York City’s campaign system,” she said. “I just hope this is the first and the last.”
The donors behind the ads brushed off her criticism.
“On issues that matter most to New Yorkers such as paid sick leave, living wages and term limits, her personal ambition drove Christine’s politically calculated actions,” said Arthur Cheliotes, head of Communications Workers of America Local 1180.
Cheliotes is behind the anti-Quinn group along with a wealthy businesswoman, Wendy Kelman Neu; a group that is trying to ban carriage horses, New Yorkers for Clean Livable and Safe Streets; and other donors the organizers refused to name.
Quinn’s campaign blamed the ads on rival Bill de Blasio, who has received large donations from the co-founder of the anti-carriage horse group, Steve Nislick, and Nislick’s wife. De Blasio also is the only Democrat vowing to get rid of horse-drawn carriages.
“It is absolutely inappropriate for her to make allegations for which she has no proof,” de Blasio said, denying he had anything to do with the ads. “She’s nervous about my candidacy.”
Good-government groups warned such a large independent expenditure could trigger a flood of spending by outside groups on attack ads similar to what happened in the 2012 presidential race.
“Independent expenditure campaigns distort races, distort issues, and change the dynamic of a race in unwelcome ways,” said Dick Dadey of Citizens Union. “This is nasty national politics coming into our city.”
Quinn's campaign asked Time Warner Cable to yank the first ad in the blitz, contending it contains distortions. The cable company said it would investigate.
The ad blitz divided the labor movement. The Teamsters union, which represents horse carriage drivers, attacked the spending.