Billionaire George Soros endorsed New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio for mayor, citing the candidate’s opposition to police stop-and-frisk tactics and support of pre-kindergarten and after-school programs.
Soros, 82, the hedge fund pioneer and philanthropist, is chairman of the Manhattan-based Open Society Foundations, an organization that supports free expression, human rights and open government around the globe. He lives in Katonah in Westchester County, where he’s registered to vote.
In a prepared statement, Soros said de Blasio, a 52-year-old Democrat, would work to reduce economic inequality and guard against too much influence over elections by corporations and wealthy individuals. He is competing against six other Democrats in a Sept. 10 primary election to win the party’s mayoral nomination. Soros, who has given the campaign $2,000, was unavailable for interviews, said Michael Vachon, a spokesman.
“New York’s next mayor needs to possess conviction, intelligence, and a clear vision for where they want to take the city,” Soros said in a news release distributed by de Blasio’s campaign. “Bill de Blasio possesses these qualities.”
Soros has acted as a philanthropic partner with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, including a $30 million contribution to the city’s Young Men’s Initiative, to help black and Latino young men; $125 million to support after-school programs; and $11 million to city arts organizations and initiatives.
In de Blasio, Soros has chosen a candidate who has criticized several of the mayor’s policies, saying they have favored wealthy New Yorkers in Manhattan and widened a gap between rich and poor. Bloomberg, 71, is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
Among the Democratic candidates, de Blasio has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Bloomberg administration’s stop-and-frisk police tactics.
Of 4.3 million stop-and-frisk searches on city streets in the past nine years, more than 80 percent were of blacks and Latinos, according to the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, a nonprofit that has sued the city over the practice. Less than 1 percent of those stops led to recovery of a gun, the center has said.
De Blasio has also proposed taxing the city’s wealthiest residents to pay for a $500 million program that would provide universal all-day pre-kindergarten and after-class programs for middle-school students. Soros said the plan would “have a powerful impact on reducing inequality and improving the lives of generations of New Yorkers.”
De Blasio placed second to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in a July 29 Quinnipiac University poll of likely Democratic mayoral voters, with 21 percent to Quinn’s 27 percent. Former city Comptroller William Thompson ranked third with 20 percent; former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner had 16 percent; and current Comptroller John Liu, 6 percent. The poll had a 4.6 percentage-point margin of error.
De Blasio has raised $6.3 million from 5,631 donors, according to his July statement to the city Campaign Finance Board, which yesterday awarded him $2.2 million in 6-to-1 matching funds on donations of $175 or less. As of July 15, he’d spent about $1.9 million, and had a balance of $4.3 million. Board regulations place a $6.4 million spending limit on the primary election.
In 1969, Soros created one of the first hedge funds, the largely unregulated, private pools of capital whose managers can participate substantially in profits. His bet against the British pound in 1992 forced the Bank of England to drop the currency’s link to the European monetary system.
Soros is ranked 26th on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, with a net worth of $23.1 billion.