Did "1,200 members of the Jewish community" endorse Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s re-election at a breakfast last Friday? The mayor’s campaign Web site claims they did.
Not so fast, say some of the attendees: leaders of national and local Jewish organizations that, as nonprofits, are prohibited by the Internal Revenue Service from making political endorsements. Many of the groups also bar officials from giving their personal nods.
While the crowd at the Hyatt in Midtown was dominated by enthusiastic, button-wearing Bloomberg backers, staff and volunteers, it also included a who’s who of communal leadership from the Jewish Community Relations Council, Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and numerous local councils.
The event featured former mayors Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani, who urged the audience not to take the election for granted because of Bloomberg’s considerable lead in the polls. Koch asked the audience members to stand and recite a pledge to vote for Bloomberg.
Afterward, one official with a Jewish agency joked "we just lost our 501[c]3." He was referring to the tax-exempt code for a nonprofit.
Web sites are playing an ever-increasing role in political campaigns, and voters are often referred to them in ads and leaflets to gather more information about candidates. The item on MikeBloomberg.com does not mention that there were many at the breakfast who made no endorsement.
Asked if the Web site would be amended, a Bloomberg spokesman, Jordan Barowitz, would say only, "The people who attended [the event] were there as individuals, not representing any organization."
But Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference, said, "I haven’t made an endorsement in 30 years." Michael Miller, executive vice president of the JCRC said that "as a policy, the president and the senior staff of the JCRC are forbidden from making any personal endorsement."
Hoenlein said he often attends political events on both sides of a campaign as long as they are not fund-raisers and believed this breakfast would be more of an address by the mayor on Jewish issues, which in part, it was. Had he known it would also have been a get-out-the-vote rally, he said "I would have had to consider it."