March 19, 2013
Bill Thompson lags behind his Democratic rivals in fundraising, but he’s out in front in one area of interest: support from high-profile education officials.
As he has ramped up his fund-raising efforts in recent months, Thompson has raked in thousands of dollars in donations from notable public figures in education, including American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and, most recently, Matthew Goldstein, chancellor of the City University of New York, filings show.
Weingarten, who worked closely with Thompson when the pair overlapped during previous city education posts more than a decade ago, gave $2,000 to his campaign in two installments on Jan. 10 and Jan. 11. Tisch contributed $4,950 — the maximum allowed by the city’s campaign finance laws — to Thompson’s six-month haul ending in January, which totaled more than $1 million.
In his latest three-month filing, which totaled $322,000 and ended last week, Thompson took in $500 from Goldstein, records show. Goldstein, who along with Weingarten sits on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Education Reform Commission, gave the maximum $4,950 to Republican candidate Joe Lhota, a member of CUNY’s Board of Trustees.
Like the other Democratic candidates, Thompson hopes to receive an endorsement from the United Federation of Teachers, the AFT’s local affiliate that Weingarten presided over from 1998 to 2009. The UFT snubbed Thompson in 2009 (shortly after Weingarten left) by not endorsing him in that year’s mayoral election, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg won narrowly despite spending more than 10 times what Thompson did.
Weingarten worked with Thompson when he was a member and president of the city’s Board of Education from 1994 to 2001. In an email, Weingarten highlighted that working relationship and said her support was personal.
“It’s not a union endorsement — it’s a personal contribution,” Weingarten said.
Weingarten noted that she has supported other mayoral candidates, though none has received her money during the mayoral race. Weingarten gave $1,000 in two payments in 2007 to Christine Quinn, then an incumbent candidate for City Council. Weingarten also gave $500 to Bill de Blasio’s 2009 winning campaign for public advocate.
Tisch, who has helped steer state education policy since 2009 and herself flirted with running for mayor, did not respond to requests for comment. Tisch has poured over $65,000 into city campaigns since 1995, including $4,000 to Thompson’s 2009 mayoral run.
Thompson got money from another former colleague, Harold Levy, chancellor of the New York City school system from 2000 to 2002. In an interview, Levy was more effusive in his praise for Thompson, who helped force out his predecessor Rudy Crew at the request of Mayor Rudy Giuliani and install Levy in his place over Giuliani’s pick.
“He’s honest, he forthright, he’s principled, he knows education, and he’s a good manager, so I like him a lot,” said Levy, who has given $600 to Thompson since last summer.
A Thompson spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
Despite the high-profile donations, Thompson has just over $2 million in his campaign chest, well behind Quinn’s $5.5 million. He also trails de Blasio, who has about $2.6 million in his campaign coffers, and is about even with Comptroller John Liu.
Thompson’s $322,000 fund raising this winter outpaced both de Blasio and Liu, but still lagged behind Quinn’s $487,000.