This week the mayor named the first lady to chair the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, a nonprofit that's legally and financially independent of city government but raises money to support public initiatives. The mayor also named Gabrielle Fialkoff as director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships, which oversees the Mayor’s Fund and other nonprofits, including the Fund for Public Schools and the Fund for Public Health.
These organizations do a lot of good. They also spend a lot of money: all told, more that $113 million in 2011. The funding for these organizations comes from donations, and that's where things get fuzzy. Only donations of $5,000 or more have to be reported to the city's Conflicts of Interest Board. And even those that are reported are described only in broad terms, and aren't especially easy for the public to access.
Most of the donors to these mayoral funds give for the very best reasons. But the funds could allow businesses and people to circumvent the campaign finance system—both its limits and its disclosure—by cutting a check to support a mayor's pet causes.
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