NYC Mayoral Election 2021
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Mayoral hopeful Maya Wiley has been endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and other fellow Democrats who regularly decry the power of special interests and big money in politics — even though she has for decades been bankrolled by hedge-fund billionaire George Soros.
Soros, the 90-year-old liberal kingmaker often criticized by Republicans and others for his outsize political influence, has ties to Wiley dating back to the 1990s, and recently pumped $500,000 into an independent expenditure group backing Wiley’s City Hall campaign, on top of direct donations.
“If we don’t come together as a movement, we will get a New York City built by and for billionaires, and we need a city for and by working people,” said Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described democratic socialist representing parts of Queens and the Bronx, in endorsing Wiley earlier this month. “So we will vote for Maya #1.”
Wiley, a former MSNBC contributor and legal counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, tweeted the quote last week in soliciting campaign donations — to further stock a war chest already directly and indirectly aided by Soros.
A spokesman for Soros confirmed to The Post that the deep-pocketed investor has contributed $500,000 to the independent expenditure group 1199 for Maya, a joint venture with 1199SEIU, an influential healthcare workers union that has endorsed Wiley.
Last week, the union announced a $1.2 million ad-buy backing Wiley, paid for by “1199 for Maya.”
As of Sunday afternoon, the lofty sums were not yet reflected on the web site of the New York City Campaign Finance Board, an independent agency dedicated to helping New Yorkers track the flow of money in local politics.
Those figures also don’t include about $16,000 in direct contributions to Wiley’s campaign by Soros, members of his family and associates through his Open Society Foundations, as well as by 1199SEIU, public campaign finance records show.
“There is the belief that billionaires are bad for society — except for when they’re giving to my campaign,” Doug Muzzio, a veteran political science professor at Baruch College, told The Post of the apparent hypocrisy. “That’s the logic.”
Wiley’s ties to Soros date back to the late 1990s, when she worked for nearly two years for the Open Society Foundations, according to her LinkedIn profile.
In 2002, Wiley founded the Center for Social Inclusion, an organization dedicated to “ending racial inequities through structural reform,” as Wiley wrote on the profile.
Both that group and the Tides Foundation, a bicoastal progressive activist organization for which Wiley has additionally worked, have also been backed in part by hefty Open Society grants, according to releases from the philanthropic group.
Meanwhile, Harlan Mandel, Wiley’s longtime partner, serves as CEO of the Media Development Investment Fund, yet another organization funded by Soros’ Open Society.
Ahead of the Democratic primary election — which saw early voting begin Saturday — Wiley has faced flak for several of her stances on public safety and policing.
She has been blasted by the NYPD’s unions for a campaign ad in which she said cops don’t think her and fellow black New Yorkers “deserve to breathe,” and gave a non-committal answer when asked on the debate stage if she would take guns away from police.
Amid a deluge of criticism, Wiley later tried to amend her answer, insisting that she did not intend to strip cops of their service weapons.
She has also been slammed as a hypocrite for Mandel’s financial contributions towards private security patrolling her Brooklyn neighborhood — even as she presses to “defund the police.”
Asked by The Post about the seeming contradiction between her campaign-trail disdain for billionaires and her long-running ties to — and big-bucks funding by — Soros, Wiley would only say that she can’t control who chooses to back her.
“I can’t comment on independent expenditures because I’ve been very clear that I have no control over them,” she said.
Despite his seemingly bottomless coffers, billionaire Soros paid no income tax between 2016 and 2018, according to a recent, wide-ranging investigation on tax inequality by ProPublica.
But, piggybacking off of the “Tale of Two Cities” rhetoric of her other former boss — de Blasio — Wiley has backed efforts to hike taxes on New York’s wealthiest.
Earlier this year, she spoke out in support of an Albany bill that would raise the state income tax rate to 7.01 percent for single earners clearing $300,000 annually, and as high as 13.81 percent for those making $100 million or more.
At an SEIU1199 rally last week in Brooklyn, Wiley touted that effort when pressed by a Brookdale Hospital nurse on why she sees 40 percent of her income go to taxes while billionaires pay, relatively speaking, little to nothing.
The answer left the nurse, who declined to give her name, unimpressed.
“It was a typical politician’s response,” she said.
Additional reporting by Aaron Feis
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