Dark Money in the New York Mayor’s Race

The New York City mayor’s race already has a national-politics tinge thanks to at least one man: the businessman Andrew Yang, whose long-shot marketing campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination sputtered out early final yr, however who’s now seen as a front-runner within the metropolis’s mayoral election. (That’s regardless of his knack for eliciting groans on Twitter.)

But it’s not simply the personalities which can be bridging the divide between native and nationwide politics. It’s additionally the cash.

This mayoral election is shaping as much as be the town’s first by which tremendous PACs — the dark-money teams that sprang up after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 resolution in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission — play a serious position.

But it’s additionally the primary race by which plenty of candidates are profiting from a metropolis coverage that permits campaigns to realize entry to extra beneficiant public matching funds, primarily based upon their stage of grass-roots help.

With the possibly decisive Democratic main simply over two months away, our Metro reporters Dana Rubinstein and Jeffery C. Mays have written an article looking at how the hunt for tremendous PAC money is complicating the race — and elevating moral questions on some campaigns, together with a number of which can be additionally receiving public matching funds. Dana took a second out of her Friday afternoon to catch me up on the place issues stand.

Hi Dana. So, the Citizens United resolution was handed down in 2010. Yet it appears as if that is the primary time we’re listening to about tremendous PACs being utilized in an enormous means within the New York mayor’s race. How does this improvement work together with the town’s newly beefed-up matching-funds coverage, which is aimed toward encouraging small donations? Is this a case of contradictory insurance policies — or, as a supply in your story put it, “like patching one part of your roof and the water finds another way in”?

There was some independent-expenditure (or “I.E.”) exercise within the 2013 mayoral main, however it wasn’t candidate particular — with one attainable exception. There was an excellent PAC referred to as New York City Is Not for Sale that was candidate particular, within the sense that it was focusing on one candidate, Christine Quinn, and it acquired its funding from Bill de Blasio supporters. But that is actually the primary time we’ve seen candidate-specific I.E.s. As they’ve proliferated on the nationwide stage, New York City candidates have been taking their cues from the nationwide scene.

If you speak to of us on the Brennan Center, who’re massive advocates for the matching-funds program, they’ll level to it and say that voters ought to take coronary heart, as a result of in some ways it’s proving itself to be successful. The six mayoral candidates who certified for matching funds this yr have been probably the most ever. The matching funds are being doled out in accordance with what number of voters from New York City are contributing to campaigns, and meaning somebody like Dianne Morales, who has no earlier electoral historical past and was by no means an enormous participant within the New York political scene earlier than this election, is ready to make an actual case for the mayoralty. She is ready to mount an actual marketing campaign. She acquired like $2 million in matching funds on this spherical.

But then you’ve this parallel universe of tremendous PAC cash. And in some instances you’ve candidates who’re getting matching funds — that are our taxpayer {dollars} — and benefiting from tremendous PACs. Of course, tremendous PACs are speculated to be impartial and never coordinate with campaigns, however regardless, for some voters it’s onerous to see that and suppose it’s an excellent situation.

Basically, what we now have is 2 parallel fund-raising techniques: One is nearly fully ungoverned, and the opposite may be very strictly regulated and entails taxpayer cash.

Who is main the race for tremendous PAC cash in New York? And what’s the general state of the race today, cash issues apart?

Shaun Donovan, the previous housing secretary beneath President Barack Obama, is taking part within the matching-funds program, and he has an excellent PAC. Scott Stringer, the town comptroller, has an excellent PAC too — though a a lot much less profitable one — and can also be taking matching funds. Andrew Yang has one tremendous PAC that was fashioned by a longtime good friend of his named David Rose; it’s raised a nominal sum of money, however nobody is beneath the phantasm that it received’t begin elevating lots quickly. And there’s this different tremendous PAC related to Yang that’s supposedly within the works, and that Lis Smith, who was concerned in Pete Buttigieg’s presidential marketing campaign, is concerned with.

Then there’s Ray McGuire, a former Citigroup government and one of many highest-ranking African-American financial institution executives ever. He has an excellent PAC that has raised $4 million from every kind of recognizable names. They’re spending lots, with the purpose to only kind of improve his identify recognition.

As far because the state of the race, we do not know. As you may attest, there’s been nearly no credible polling right here. In phrases of the accessible polls, there’s some uniformity to what they recommend: Yang has a lead, but half of voters are undecided. You have Eric Adams, Scott Stringer, Maya Wiley, after which the remainder of the pack.

It is each too quickly to say and likewise alarmingly near the precise main election day, June 22. We actually don’t have a way of the place issues stand. When you add to this ranked-choice voting, which is new this yr, it’s actually an open query.

Earlier you talked about Shaun Donovan, whose story figures prominently into the article you and Jeff simply wrote. Fill us in on what’s occurring there.

In addition to being the previous housing secretary for Obama, he was the funds director. So he’s a really well-regarded technocrat — who is also the son of a rich ad-tech government. Someone fashioned an excellent PAC to help his candidacy for mayor; that tremendous PAC has raised a little bit over $2 million, and precisely $2 million of that sum was donated by his dad.

It’s fully throughout the realm of chance that his dad was like, “You know what, I really love my son, I think he’d be a great mayor, I’m going to fund his super PAC,” with none coordination about how that cash could be used. But it’s onerous for some folks to think about a situation the place a father and son don’t speak about this sort of factor. Or possibly it isn’t! The level is that it’s nearly unknowable, isn’t it?

There’s a number of winking and nodding concerned on this stuff, and also you don’t essentially want direct coordination with the intention to have what’s successfully coordination.

On Politics can also be accessible as a publication. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox.

Is there something you suppose we’re lacking? Anything you wish to see extra of? We’d love to listen to from you. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.