Government watchdogs are crying foul over a television ad featuring the First Lady of New York City, which is being paid for by supporters of Mayor Bill de Blasio's pre-K plan and was produced by a nonprofit group staffed by de Blasio loyalists. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
A television ad starring Chirlane McCray looks a lot like the ads Mayor Bill de Blasio ran during his campaign for City Hall.
However, the mayor is not paying for it out with campaign money. A nonprofit group, staffed by former de Blasio campaign aides, produced the spot. The group is spending more than $1 million to keep it on T-V for the next few weeks.
"It's fascinating to me that an individual who has a very significant taxpayer-paid-for communications department, who is trailed by countless numbers of reporters and cameras across the city, doesn't feel that he has a way to communicate with the public through that very obvious means of communicating," said Susan Lerner of Common Cause New York.
In December, de Blasio announced the creation of the nonprofit group, called UPKNYC. He said it would be fighting for his plan to create universal pre-K in the city.
The battle for state pre-K funding, though, is now over. Nevertheless, the group put up a TV ad in which the first lady trumpets her husband's achievement.
A spokesman for the group said the group wants to make sure parents know about the program.
"Tens of thousands of our kids will now have access to full-day pre-K," the spokesman said.
Critics say it looks and sounds like a campaign ad for the mayor. At the very least, it seems designed to raise his sagging approval ratings.
"There are many questions that are raised by this ad and generally by UPKNYC," said Alex Camrada of Citizens Union. "We really need to know more information about the involvement, if any, of the mayor and the mayor's office in the fundraising for UPKNYC.
The mayor has been quietly raising money for the nonprofit. A spokesman said in a statement that no one from the administration is soliciting donations from individuals or entities with business before the city.
State law requires the nonprofit to disclose its donors in July. UPKNYC had said it would release them earlier, but it has not done so yet.