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Quinn Appearance In Fairway Ad Raises Questions, Critics Say

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The release of an anti-Christine Quinn attack ad last week prompted concerns about the unregulated flow of money from outside groups into this year’s mayor’s race. But there are other, more subtle forms of advertising that also skirt campaign finance rules. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

A commercial for Fairway Market from earlier this year trumpeted the Red Hook store’s reopening post-Hurricane Sandy. But it also prominently features City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn.

"It does seem to be a advertisement that works very, very hard to feature her," said Susan Lerner of Common Cause New York.

The Quinn campaign says it had nothing to do with the ad, noting it is clearly not political in nature. Fairway says Quinn was simply the most prominent elected official who attended the event where she was filmed. But a rival campaign notes longtime Fairway CEO Howard Glickberg is a Quinn contributor. And critics say this type of ad is problematic because it falls outside the city's stringent campaign finance system.

Gristedes ads featuring CEO John Catsimatidis, also a mayoral candidate, are another example.

"It is certainly beneficial to any candidate to have a corporation put their name and their face all over their advertising," Lerner said.

The city’s Campaign Finance Board says closer to the election, the ad could be considered a so-called independent expenditure, subject to disclosure rules. One such ad, paid for a coalition of left-leaning activists, was released last week attacking Quinn, prompting her to denounce all such outside spending.

"I don’t think there’s any place for independent expenditures in the New York City system," Quinn told reporters last week.

"It’s another example of the speaker's hypocrisy," said Scott Levenson, a political consultant.

Levenson, the architect of the anti-Quinn ad, said she can't have it both ways.

"It has value towards her campaign. It reflects on a positive light during the time when she’s running for office," Levenson noted.

The Quinn campaign says the Fairway ad is clearly in a different category from one that explicitly advocates against her.

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