New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last month finally turned over more than 4200 pages of unredacted emails in the “agents of the city” case. De Blasio had resisted disclosure, arguing that five outside advisers were effectively “agents of the city” whose communications should be shielded from the New York Freedom of Information Law. NY1 television and the New York Post sued and won. The documents are out. What have we learned?
Most of the emails reflect the administration’s early priorities—education, budgets, transportation, personnel, press releases and meetings. But there are plenty of glimpses behind the façade and into the true mind of the mayor. It’s not an uplifting picture.
The mayor relies heavily on some of his “agents.” In the lawsuit, the five named “agents” were powerful PR mavens Jonathan Rosen, John Del Cecato, Bill Heyers and Nicholas Baldick, and Democratic Party senior operative Patrick Gaspard, who at the time was U.S. ambassador to South Africa. Gaspard is now president of George Soros’s Open Society Foundations. De Blasio relies heavily on Rosen, a constant presence in the emails. Del Cecato is often in the loop as well. Heyer and Baldick less so. Gaspard appears to be almost totally absent from the emails.
“You were wise last night,” de Blasio wrote to Rosen in an email titled “Smart Man.” “I need to talk to you more about what the group discussed last night. Want to see you in person. If you have a little time, I’ll be in the Slope later. If not, whenever works for you in the next few days.” (P. 1,072 of the production.) It’s a refrain that echoes through the emails.
Rosen is head of BerlinRosen, a communications firm closely tied to New York’s unions, real estate interests and left-leaning groups. Judicial Watch looked at Rosen’s connection to real estate mogul Bruce Ratner—a major de Blasio supporter—in a 2016 investigation, The New Tammany Hall: New York in the Age of Corruption.
The mayor is a whiner. De Blasio complains. A lot. Union leaders opposing him are “bastards.” (P. 1,073). He wants to keep a “scorecard” of “who was a friend and who was cheap.” The New York Times is “idiotic and “disgusting” and “disappointing” (1,080, 1,329).
The mayor hates the media. Tremendous energy goes into managing the Times. “We need to figure out a new paradigm” for the paper, the mayor complains. “This level of bias can’t be ignored. Either starve them or reason with them or something else.” (1,329). Publications large and small draw his enmity. When the Gotham Gazette asks if it’s time for the mayor to do town hall meetings, de Blasio emails Rosen and other top communications aides, “I’m so sick of this meme that I’m thinking of just scheduling town hall meetings so these guys can’t write about it anymore.” (1,133) An Atlantic profile is “horrible,” de Blasio writes. “I strongly advise we avoid profiles from now on.” (1,630)
The mayor hates the governor. De Blasio’s rivalry with Governor Andrew Cuomo is not news to anyone following New York politics, but the emails show raw emotion. “Andrew Cuomo is defiling any sense of decent, normal, high-road government left in New York State,” de Blasio emails top aides as Cuomo maneuvers to cut transit spending. “We can’t take this lying down… We must fight back and have other voices fight back.” (1,410)
The mayor is grandiose and self-pitying. When questions are raised about the mayor’s whereabouts after a firefighter is shot while responding to a blaze on Staten Island, de Blasio emails aides that “the news media is pitiful and it’s sad for our city and our nation.” (1,074)
A lengthy analysis follows. “Here’s what we know: the media wants to focus on death in all its forms and wants me to be present wherever death or grievous injury is involved. Today’s controversy about when exactly I should be at the hospital or an active shooter situation and what I’m ‘allowed’ to do if I’m not there is a case in point. We can make a conscience decision to surrender to them and just go to fires, crime scenes and memorials all day every day — or we can govern.”
He tells his team: “They will never defeat us. Only we can do that.”
The emails run from the opening of the de Blasio administration in January 2014 to December 2016. By late 2015, as pay-to-play controversies and other troubles engulf his administration, the mayor fades from the correspondence. But the agents of the city grind on. In the final email of the package, a senior de Blasio aide writes Rosen to thank him for the “partnerships” he fostered with “companies, foundations and individuals” in support of the mayor’s goals.
Micah Morrison is chief investigative reporter for Judicial Watch. Follow him on Twitter @micah_morrison. Tips:
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