I read this article from The New York Times via Bossip (Yes, Bossip! lol)... and it really, really made me think. In the past three or four months, I have yet to see one television ad from Bill Thompson's campaign, I haven't received anything in the mail.... I knew NOTHING about his campaign promises until I ventured to his website.
I have, however, received full color mailings (despite the fact that NO ONE in my household is a registered Republican) and my nightly viewing of Keith "Keefus" Olbermann is peppered with countless ads for Bloomberg... all promising that Thompson's selection for mayoral will lead to TAXES, DEBT, and NAZIS riding DINOSAURS with LASER EYES will roam the streets, leaving a trail of carnage in their path (Okay, I made the last part up!)
Mayor Deprives Rival of Black Clergy’s Support
Rob Bennett for The New York Times
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg with the Rev. Floyd H. Flake of the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral.
By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE and MICHAEL BARBARO
Published: October 28, 2009
A few weeks ago, the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, the influential pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, came to a difficult decision, one he had wrestled with all summer.
"What could I say to a man who was mayor, and was supportive of a lot of programs that are importan to me?" said Rev. Calvin O. Buts III, the pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Manhattan.
He would not endorse William C. Thompson Jr., the city comptroller and a longtime friend and ally, for mayor, as he had promised Mr. Thompson last spring. Instead, he would endorse Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
Mr. Thompson was furious at the betrayal. But what he did not know was that Mr. Bloomberg gave a $1 million donation to the church’s development corporation — roughly 10 percent of its annual budget — with the implicit promise of more to come.
“What could I say to a man who was mayor, and was supportive of a lot of programs that are important to me?” Mr. Butts said in an interview before he endorsed Mr. Bloomberg.
In his quest for a third term, Mr. Bloomberg has deprived Mr. Thompson of what many once regarded as his political birthright: the blessings of the city’s most powerful black ministers, who together preach to tens of thousands of congregants each week. And to win them over, he has deployed an unusual combination of city money, private philanthropy, political appointments and personal attention, creating a web of ties to black clergy members that is virtually unheard of for a white elected official in New York City.
Some prominent ministers have been appointed by Mr. Bloomberg to influential city boards and committees. Others have enjoyed the administration’s help in buying city property or winning zoning concessions for pet projects. A few of the largest institutions, including Abyssinian and the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Jamaica, Queens, have taken in millions of dollars in contracts to provide city services during Mr. Bloomberg’s eight years in office.
Looming over it all is Mr. Bloomberg’s dazzling wealth, whether already bestowed — as in the case of Mr. Butts — or hoped for down the line.
“We have to come to his foundation sooner or later,” said the Rev. Timothy Birkett, pastor of the Church Alive Community Church in the Bronx, who is backing the mayor this year. “We hope that he will be receptive.”
Those who support Mr. Bloomberg say that the mayor has earned their endorsements strictly on the merits of his record in office, especially on education and crime. But some critics say the outpouring of support owes more to the dependence of many black churches on a friendly ear at City Hall.
“Some of these endorsements that we see are indicative of a faith statement by some of our religious leaders,” said the Rev. Clinton M. Miller, a protégé of Mr. Butts and the pastor of Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Brooklyn. “The statement is, who do I trust more, in terms of how I am going to get my projects done?” Mr. Miller said. “The choice is between a municipality and God.”
Aides to Mr. Bloomberg say that mutual respect, not financial ties, binds the mayor to the clergymen; they point out that some of the churches also received large contracts before Mr. Bloomberg took office.
Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott said the relationship “really goes beyond contracts,” adding that it is based on “an ongoing line of communication we have with important individuals who have important constituencies, and we’re very proud of that.”
At moments of racial tension that might have swamped a different white mayor, Mr. Bloomberg has rarely faced the kind of personal criticism from prominent black ministers that wounded his predecessors, like Rudolph W. Giuliani, whom Mr. Butts once publicly branded a racist.
That contrast was on display last week when Mr. Bloomberg appeared at a campaign event with Mr. Giuliani, who suggested to a mostly white, Jewish audience in Brooklyn that “the wrong political leadership” could return New Yorkers to the days of “fear of going out at night and walking the streets.”
Several black elected officials immediately denounced the comments as race-baiting. But no prominent black pastors demanded that the mayor disavow the comments.
“You can pick up the phone and talk to him,” said the Rev. Conrad B. Tillard, a Brooklyn pastor who endorsed Mr. Bloomberg in 2001 but said he was undecided this year. “You don’t have to talk to him on the steps of City Hall in front of 10,000 people.”
While Mr. Giuliani seemed at times to relish antagonizing the ministers, Mr. Bloomberg has reached out in highly visible ways. After plainclothes police officers killed Sean Bell, an unarmed black man, Mr. Bloomberg immediately summoned the city’s top ministers to City Hall for a meeting and told them the shooting had been “inexplicable” and “unacceptable.”
More than 30 black ministers have publicly endorsed Mr. Bloomberg this year, their exuberant praise a sharp rejoinder to Mr. Thompson’s attack on the mayor as a plutocrat with little concern for the working class. Many more remain on the sidelines, where they can do the mayor little harm.
Officials with the Thompson campaign claim the unofficial support of more than 200 pastors at churches throughout the city. But, strikingly, many of those pastors, the officials say, have told the campaign that they could not risk a public endorsement.
One campaign official who insisted on anonymity for fear of offending the clergy said: “Some are cautious because they believe that if they come forward publicly, they will lose opportunities for funding or projects or other help. They see their colleague who says, ‘Hey I got this — you can sit at the king’s table, too.’ ”
One clergyman who already sits at Mr. Bloomberg’s table is the Rev. A. R. Bernard, pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, the largest church congregation in the city.
Since coming into office, the mayor has appointed Mr. Bernard to the board of the city’s Economic Development Corporation. In 2006, the administration agreed to sell parts of two streets that had been taken off the city’s maps to the Christian Cultural Center. That helped Mr. Bernard assemble a large parcel of land around the church that he plans to use for an ambitious mixed-use project of city-subsidized housing and commercial space.
“You do have to get cooperation from city agencies in order to get things done,” Mr. Bernard said in an interview. “I won’t ever request favors that aren’t being done as part of the normal process — but it is good to have relationships.”
The mayor has also been endorsed this year by the Rev. Floyd H. Flake, pastor of the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral.
With housing projects, bus services and a women’s shelter, the cathedral is one of the largest employers in southeast Queens. Since Mr. Bloomberg took office, Allen has received close to $8 million in city contracts. Mr. Bloomberg also appointed Mr. Flake to the city’s Commission for Economic Opportunity, which recommended policies to help the poor.
Like Mr. Butts, Mr. Flake endorsed Mr. Bloomberg’s opponent, Mark Green, in 2001. But in the years since, he has become a major booster and confidant of the mayor.
“Everything I have ever called on, his people called right back, and been supportive,” Mr. Flake said.
Mr. Flake said he had never accepted a personal contribution for the church from Mr. Bloomberg and dismissed the suggestion that the church’s need of city officials’ assistance had swayed his endorsement.
Since taking office, the mayor has met at least 16 times with Mr. Flake and 14 times with Mr. Bernard. But few New Yorkers have been courted more assiduously than Mr. Butts, with whom the mayor has met 20 times. After donating $1 million of his own money to Mr. Butts’s Abyssinian Development Corporation in 2008, the mayor made another gift this year of several hundred thousand dollars, according to a person with direct knowledge of the gift, who spoke on the condition that he not be named because the gift was supposed to be anonymous.
Since Mr. Bloomberg was sworn in, the church and its affiliated nonprofit groups have received at least $7 million in city contracts. None of that, Mr. Butts said, made it any easier to tell Mr. Thompson that he had changed his mind about the endorsement. But he denied that the mayor’s philanthropy played a role in his decision. “If Giuliani had the money Bloomberg had, and spread it around, he still wouldn’t get support,” Mr. Butts said. “This is not about Bloomberg’s money.”
Jo Craven McGinty contributed reporting.