SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Senior New York City and State officials converged at this week’s Somos conference for the same mix of political and political discussions on Latino priorities – but they differ on the way they paid for their trips.
Most used campaign or personal funds – with the notable exceptions of Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Kathy Hochul, both of whom spent government money to get themselves and those around them to San Juan.
De Blasio, who is only 57 years old the days remaining before term limits require him to resign, alludes to a candidacy for governor. Hochul is already announced as a candidate in next year’s election for the state’s top post.
Mayor-elect Eric Adams and his group of about half a dozen Brooklyn Borough Hall campaign assistants and staff each paid their own way, according to a spokesperson for the Borough President’s Office.
Adams made several public appearances on Friday, including at a Kings County Democratic Party reception at the Fairmont El San Juan hotel.
“I paid myself. I’ve learned that the best way to tell people to mind their own business is to take it out of your pocket and write your own check…. So my dollar, my penny and my time, ”he told reporters just before his first event. “I have a public schedule and sometimes I’ll just hang out on the beach, put on my swimsuit and jump in the water and just have fun.”
Adams will travel to the Dominican Republic before returning to New York, to keep his campaign promise to visit the country immediately after being elected mayor.
The cost of politics
State Attorney General Letitia James, who announced her intention to run for governor of New York at the end of last month, funded her trips with campaign money, according to a spokesperson.
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who said he will run again in 2022, also used campaign funds to travel to San Juan, his office said.
City comptroller-elect Brad Lander personally paid for his trip, but will be reimbursed from transitional dollars privately collected, according to a campaign spokesperson.
Meanwhile, Hochul and his government aides traveled to San Juan with taxpayer dollars, according to his spokesperson. Hochul’s husband Bill Hochul, a senior executive at the Delaware North casino and concession company, paid for his own trip to the island.
Hochul’s reception on Friday in the Grand Ballroom of the San Juan Hotel, which emphasized diversity in government, was funded with funds from his re-election campaign, his spokesperson said.
“I want my administration to be like New York State. We just started two months ago and I am so proud of the people who have said yes to serve in my administration, who come from all walks of life, from all parts of the state, ”Hochul told the packed house. .
“This administration, finally, has Blacks and Browns in positions of power so that they can not only be phenomenal officials, but send a message to all the children in their communities that they can too,” she added. .
Company “For the people”
Gale Brewer, the Manhattan borough president who was recently re-elected to city council, said she paid for her own trip – but would not comment on how others were handling it.
“Every penny comes out of my pocket,” said Brewer, who is among the board members vying for the powerful speaker role.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, reportedly running for state attorney general, used campaign funds to pay for his trip to Somos, according to a spokesperson.
De Blasio, who last week filed documents to potentially raise funds to show up at a state office, used taxpayer money not only to fund his own trip to Somos, but his wife’s as well, Chirlane McCray, and six city hall employees, according to a spokesperson.
The mayor will not say if he is a candidate for governor in 2022, while repeating that he plans to continue in the role of civil servant. “I am ready to do more,” he said.
But the mayor also noted that the race for governor is still an open competition.
“Universally elected officials, party officials, union leaders say this is a really open dynamic for next year – very unclear, constantly evolving,” he told reporters. when asked to garner support for a possible race. “And a lot of people say they keep their powder dry and ultimately decide.”
De Blasio’s public schedule for Thursday and Friday showed him with his wife attending nine conference-related receptions, including gatherings hosted by Friends of Puerto Rico and the New York State Association for Affordable Housing , as well as a number organized by political groups.
He has championed the use of taxpayer dollars noting all the work he does on behalf of city residents.
“For us, we are constantly working on problems – literally all the time. I have had meetings since the moment I arrived here with people on issues and issues in their community, elected officials, union leaders, civic leaders, ”the mayor said.
“It’s the place where you see the most people and where you do the most things all year round,” he added. “We do a lot of business for people here – it’s the right thing to do.”
A city hall spokesperson did not respond when asked for the total taxpayer bill or an explanation of McCray’s work for city residents in San Juan.
“He loves Puerto Rico”
Their son, Dante – who helped produce videos touting his father’s accomplishments as mayor – also traveled to Puerto Rico but paid his own expenses, according to a city hall spokesman.
De Blasio said the Yale graduate just wanted to experience the political conference knowing it was the last time his father would attend as mayor.
“He loves Puerto Rico,” the mayor said. “I think when someone is 24, having a lot of experiences is one thing.”
Last month, the city’s Investigations Department released a report that detailed how taxpayers paid the nearly $ 320,000 bill for de Blasio’s NYPD security details as he scoured the country while showing up. for the presidency in 2019. DOI called on the mayor to reimburse the city, but he refused.
De Blasio had asked the city’s ethics watchdog before making his offer to the White House if taxpayers could foot the bill – and got a big no for an answer.