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Bill de Blasio Concedes Presidential Campaign Was a ‘Mistake’ But Absolutely Won’t Pay NYC the $475,000 He Owes for It

De Blasio's conflict-of-interest fine is the biggest in history.

Bill de Blasio wearing BK Nets gear.

(Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)

In a recent interview that featured rare flashes of self-reflection, former Mayor Bill de Blasio told New York magazine that his 2020 presidential campaign was a "mistake."

"I think my values were the right values, and I think I had something to offer, but it was not right on a variety of levels. And I think I got into a place of just extreme stubbornness and tunnel vision," de Blasio told the outlet. "It was not without value, but it didn't make sense."

One particularly extreme point of stubbornness: refusing to reimburse New York City taxpayers for the $319,794.20 that the NYPD spent on his security detail as he traveled around Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, wolfing down corn dogs and speaking to tens of voters. ("It's a very, very small amount of money," de Blasio insisted at the time.)

On Thursday, the City's Conflict of Interest Board ruled that de Blasio has to pay the City $474,794.20, which represents the "very, very small amount of money" that his NYPD detail cost, as well as a $155,000 fine—$5,000 for each one of the 31 out-of-state trips de Blasio took on the campaign trail. It's the most money the COIB has fined anyone, ever, according to a press release the board issued.

In their decision, the COIB pointed to a section of the City Charter that "prohibit[s] public servants from using City resources for any non-City purpose."

"Respondent's conduct plainly violates this prohibition," the COIB wrote. "The Board advised Respondent to this effect prior to his campaign; Respondent disregarded the Board's advice."

So, given the former mayor's newfound state of self-awareness, is he going to admit defeat, pay the fine, and move on with his life?

LOL, no. Shortly after the COIB issued its ruling, de Blasio's attorneys filed a lawsuit against the City.

"In a time of unprecedented threats of political violence, the COIB's reckless and arbitrary ruling threatens the safety and security of our democratically-elected public servants," an attorney for the former mayor said in a statement.

Their argument, in the amusingly captioned "Bill de Blasio against…the City of New York" complaint, goes something like: Does the mayor stop being the mayor outside of New York City? No, so you cannot restrict his First Amendment right to run a pointless presidential campaign by making him pay for his necessary security detail, even if that detail is watching the mayor shuffle down a lonely New Hampshire road as he pulls a wagon of children who have no choice but to bear witness to one of the saddest runs for office in our modern era. 

We texted the former mayor for his reaction to the COIB ruling but have not received a response. De Blasio also owes the law firm who got him out of an unrelated federal corruption jam some $435,000. It's not clear how long it will take him to pay all this back with whatever he's making teaching at NYU and doing stuff for Harvard, but he'll manage, taking things one day at a time. 

Poor Bill, to have all this happen just as New Yorkers were beginning to see his tenure in a new, more appreciative light.

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