“It appears that ‘pay to play’ is very much alive and well in the de Blasio administration.”- Geoffrey Croft of the watchdog group NYC Park Advocates
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
A lobbyist and longtime friend of Mayor de Blasio delivered $13,000 in donations to Hizzoner’s re-election campaign on the very day the powerbroker scored a sweet deal from the city on a music festival for a client.
A lobbyist and longtime friend of Mayor de Blasio delivered $13,000 in donations to Hizzoner’s re-election campaign on the very day the powerbroker scored a sweet deal from the city on a music festivalfor a client.
In all, Harold Ickes — a former Clinton administration official — bundled more than $19,000 in donations to the mayor’s campaign over four days, including the bulk on Jan. 11, the same day concert promoter AEG Live won a permit to hold the mutli-day festival on Randall’s Island.
“It appears that ‘pay to play’ is very much alive and well in the de Blasio administration,” said Geoffrey Croft of the watchdog group NYC Park Advocates.
“I guess in hindsight, it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that AEG Live got preferential treatment due to privileged access.”
The Parks Department permit allows AEG Live — which runs the Coachella concert series in California — to host the Panorama Festival on Randall’s Island from July 24 to 26.
Ickes and his business partner, Janice Enright, each contributed $400 — the most a lobbyist can legally give — to de Blasio’s campaign in the days leading up to the deal being sealed.
Much of the overall $19,000 came from people such as Ickes wife, Laura Handman, who donated $4,950 to the re-election campaign. The wife of Ickes other partner, Kevin McCabe, also gave a $4,950 donation.
AEG Live has paid $150,000 to Ickes lobbying firm since 2014.
Ickes, a de Blasio mentor, served on the then mayor-elect’s transition team in 2014, helping to hire Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver.
Before the contract was awarded, three companies, AEG, Madison Square Garden and Founders Entertainment had submitted similar applications to shut down Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens to stage for-profit megafestivals.
But when Borough President Melinda Katz argued for more transparency in the city’s permit process, all of those applications were rejected.
But AEG alone was granted another venue Randall’s Island.
As a result, Founders, which is promoting the annual Governor’s Ball music festival on Randall’s Island in June, will have to compete with AEG for concertgoers’ money.
De Blasio spokeswoman Karen Hinton denied that donations played any role in AEG getting the permit.
“The Parks Department makes decisions on all event permits based on a standard criteria that includes impact on the park and its users,” she said.