Taxpayers’ tab for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s security as he runs for president is even steeper than originally believed: It now includes travel from weeks before he announced his campaign, records show.
The de Blasio 2020 campaign listed 21 payments to nine hotels in Boston, South Carolina, Virginia and Las Vegas, starting in March and continuing through May 9, according to Federal Election Commission filings. And it appears that at least some hotel rates surpassed the federal travel price limits observed by the NYPD.
At the time, de Blasio was openly floating his candidacy for the Democratic nomination, but didn’t officially announce until May 16.
A campaign spokesperson confirmed de Blasio was on some of these out-of-town trips, although she wouldn’t say which ones. When the mayor or his wife, Chirlane McCray, leave town, they’re always accompanied by a squad of detectives assigned to each.
The mayor’s campaign foots the bill for his and McCray’s stays, but New York City taxpayers pay the cost of airfare, hotels, rental cars and meals for the cops assigned to guard them.
An analysis by THE CITY found that since he announced on May 16, taxpayers have paid for at least $100,000 in travel expenses for the couple’s NYPD entourages.
‘Transparency is Very Important’
On Tuesday, civil rights attorney Norman Siegel told THE CITY he’d filed a public records request demanding that the NYPD release details on all the costs absorbed by taxpayers for security details for de Blasio and his wife during their campaign trips across the country.
“The costs and expenses for exclusively partisan political activity should not be borne by the taxpayers,” said Siegel, the former New York Civil Liberties Union head who lost the 2009 Democratic primary for public advocate to de Blasio.
Last week, the NYPD refused to release the costs of airfare, hotels, rental cars and meals to THE CITY, claiming that these dollar figures would allow the public to “extrapolate” the scope of the mayor’s security.
Siegel said he would file a lawsuit if the police department doesn’t release the travel expense records he’s requesting.
Andrew Rein, president of the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan watchdog group that monitors municipal spending habits, also said the public needs to know how much de Blasio’s presidential run is costing New Yorkers.
“The people should always know how their money is being spent,” said Rein. “Transparency is very important.”
A Grand Hotel Visit
The report filed Monday detailed some but not all of de Blasio’s spending in his bid for the White House — including money spent on airfare, hotels and rental cars for de Blasio, his wife and his campaign staff.
The campaign can spend what it wants on travel. But the NYPD abides by federal per diem travel cost guidelines meant to ensure that taxpayers don’t get gouged.
In some cases, it appears the mayor stayed at hotels where the cheapest room costs more than the top rate federal guidelines stipulate for government travel.
For instance, on May 2 the de Blasio 2020 campaign paid $691.62 to the MGM Grand Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. A campaign spokesperson said the mayor and unnamed staff were on that trip, but she wouldn’t say how many rooms were rented.
Rooms at the MGM Grand start at $169-a-night for a West Wing King and run to $349 for the Stay Well Tower Spa Suite with aromatherapy and warm white room lighting. That’s well above the recommended federal per diem rate of $102 for hotels in Vegas in May.
Last weekend, the mayor hustled out of Iowa when a blackout struck a hunk of Manhattan, shuttering Broadway.
He wound up having his NYPD team drive him to Chicago, where he spent the night at a hotel next to O’Hare Airport. That sudden change of plans likely resulted in higher costs for taxpayers: The federal per diem rate for Chicago hotels is $183 per night.
Rooms the Hilton at Chicago O’Hare start at $349 a night.
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