The presidential campaign of New York mayor Bill de Blasio is on life support. The candidate is polling at zero percent and he seems unlikely to qualify for the next Democratic debate.
In desperation, de Blasio has turned to allies in New York City’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. His campaign is soliciting, in Yiddish, one dollar donations from Orthodox Jews. It hopes to obtain 10,000 of them in order to help satisfy a criterion for participating in the next debate — contributions from 130,000 individuals. A de Blasio campaign filing from earlier this month showed only about 6,700 contributing individuals.
The Jewish group de Blasio seeks to mine is known as the Satmar movement. As I understand it, the Satmars are divided into two factions, having splintered following the death of Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum in 2006. One of these faction supported de Blasio’s mayoral campaign. It is to this group that his presidential campaign appeals for money.
De Blasio reportedly has served this group well as mayor. Politico says “he has acted favorably on several issues of importance to the [Satmar] community, such as yeshiva standards and circumcision rituals.” De Blasio is also a strong supporter of Israel. However, as Politico notes, this doesn’t add to his appeal to this Satmar group. Apparently, it has no use for Israel, as has very often been the case with the ultra-Orthodox.
Politico construes De Blasio’s pitch to the Satmars as suggesting that donations to his presidential campaign might result in continued favorable treatment. As translated from Yiddish for Politico, the pitch requests donations on behalf of those “who work together with the faithful askanim [loosely translated to influential people] who are in constant contact with the government to lobby on a number of issues on behalf of our holy institutions and communities and for individuals who need help and to represent your interests.” “By donating the dollar you support your needs, the entire Haredi Orthodox public and our rights and needs,” the solicitation adds.
A few years ago, De Blasio nearly landed in trouble for his fundraising efforts with the Satmar movement. Federal prosecutors investigated whether de Blasio gave special treatment to a Satmar Hasidic landlord in exchange for campaign support. In 2017, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York concluded that there was not enough evidence to prove corruption or criminal intent.
Earlier this year, the New York Times reported that de Blasio’s response to the spread of measles might have been affected by his ties to the Satmars. The Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, home to a large ultra-Orthodox population, experienced an outbreak of measles. Eventually, the City ordered residents to be vaccinated or fined. However, some accused de Blasio of being too slow to order this, out of deference to the wishes of the ultra-Orthodox community.
This accusation may or may not be justified; it doesn’t strike me as terribly persuasive. However, it seems clear that de Blasio is quite attentive to the special interests of the ultra-Orthodox, many of whom he represented when he was on the City Council. Now, as a reward, he hopes a portion of that community will keep his failing presidential campaign afloat.