Public Advocate Jumaane Williams was awarded nearly $1 million in city taxpayer dollars for his re-election campaign on Thursday — but critics claim he can use the cash to help launch a run for governor instead.
The city’s Campaign Finance Board said Thursday that Williams is eligible to pocket $959,093 in public matching funds for his public advocate re-election campaign.
But the former Brooklyn city councilman faces only token opposition in the race and is widely expected to prevail in November.
Critics said Williams can instead use the money to promote himself as he mulls a run for governor.
“It’s very on-brand for a self-described socialist to be milking other people’s hard-earned money, but this is exactly why taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for funding politicians’ campaigns,” said state Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy.
“We need a governor who is going to drain the Albany swamp, not be a creature of it.”
Candidates can receive eight public dollars for every dollar raised from small private donations.
The CFB announced that it has already released a whopping $123 million for citywide races and 51 council contests this year, with one more pay period due before the Nov. 2 general election. That’s more than triple the $38.3 million spent on city races in 2013.
Under CFB rules, incumbents considered “sure winners” are only entitled to 25 percent of eligible matching funds unless they file a “statement of need” providing that they are locked in a competitive race.
Williams did not file a claim that he’s in a competitive race, which could have landed him more than $4 million for the final weeks of the campaign.
His opponents include Republican candidate Devi Nampiaparampil, Conservative nominee Tony Herbert and Libertarian candidate Devin Balkind.
State Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar also said the public funds delivered to Williams are a waste and misuse of taxpayer dollars.
“Williams can use this money to focus on Democratic primary voters in the city in a campaign for governor next year against Kathy Hochul and [state Attorney General] Letitia James,” Kassar said.
“It’s one of many reasons we oppose public funding of campaigns. It’s an opportunity for politicians to obtain taxpayer dollars and utilize it in a manner that is not related to the campaign they’re running for.”
James, like Williams, is considering challenging Hochul in the Democratic primary for governor next year instead of running for re-election as attorney general.
Even supporters of taxpayer-financed campaigns said incumbents without real races shouldn’t get public funds.
“We support making public funds available for competitive elections but not bloated campaigns running against token opposition,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany.
He said the City Council can pass a law to tighten the rules.
Williams defended accepting the public funds.
“I will never take any election for granted, and I’m humbled by and grateful for all of the small dollar donors who are powering this campaign – knowing that their donations would be matched and multiplied under our system,” Williams said in a statement.
“My team will be using a portion of the funds allotted by the CFB to ensure that New Yorkers hear our message about the work I’ve done in the office so far and the work still ahead if I have the honor of being re-elected, and I will be returning the balance of any unused funds after the general election.”
The Hochul campaign declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams is not taking any more public funding. He already has $7.7 million in cash on hand, reaching the cap on $7.4 million in campaign spending under CFB rules.
Adams, the current Brooklyn borough president, could have taken millions more in public funding, but that would have required him to return donations to private contributors to fall within the spending cap. But he decided not to take any more taxpayer funds instead.
“Eric’s campaign has received overwhelming support from thousands of New Yorkers since the general election began, allowing the campaign to forego further public funds and save taxpayers millions of dollars,” said Adams campaign spokesman Evan Thies.
The CFB approved an additional $687,255 in matching funds for Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa, who is still being outraised and spent by rival Adams.
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