Council Speaker Corey Johnson said there wasn’t any “pay-to-play” after a Daily News analysis found a tenth of campaign contributions came from donors benefiting from Council discretionary funding.
“This is not in any way a pay-to-play thing at all,” Johnson said on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” on Monday. “I have put forward my own self-imposed limit of $250, which no one has ever done before running citywide.”
Johnson hasn’t officially declared his candidacy for mayor, but he raised roughly $375,000 since January for his 2021 campaign account, filings show. Nearly $38,000 of that came from people who work for or serve hundreds of entities that have gotten millions in discretionary funds from the Council on the speaker’s watch.
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“I don’t because I am the only candidate that is potentially running for mayor that is only accepting $250 per person, even though the legal limit is $2,000 a person,” he said. “Some of the organizations that were detailed in that Daily News piece, like the LGBT Center, which is in my district, or the High Line or the AIDs Memorial, these are organizations and people that I’ve known for years and years and years and years,” Johnson explained. “Some of the people who are affiliated with them gave $10 or gave $50 or gave $70.”
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In addition to the self-imposed $250 limit, Johnson also pledged to decline contributions from real estate developers and employees of lobbying firms. The speaker still accepted donations from others in the real estate industry, like brokers.
Johnson noted that Betsy Gotbaum, executive director of the good-government group Citizens Union, praised his tactics.
“I feel perfectly comfortable with how I’ve fundraised,” Johnson said.