Unions raise for pro-de Blasio action committee to counter David Koch

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The city’s unions are joining forces to raise millions for Bill de Blasio, with the intent of counterbalancing a fund-raising effort for Joe Lhota spearheaded by conservative-activist billionaire David Koch.

A number of the city's most powerful private and public labor organizations have come together to form New York Progress, a super P.A.C. that has raised more than $1 million so far and hopes to clear at least $2 million in the coming weeks, according to Josh Gold, political director for the Hotel & Motel Trades Council.

“Polls are nice, but all of us want to have the infrastructure and resources in place to make sure that New York City voters understand that Bill de Blasio is the best candidate to bring about the progressive change New Yorkers want,” said Gold, who helped coordinate the group's formation. 

The group plans to spend its resources on broadcast and cable TV ads and will attack Lhota if the unions feel it necessary, Gold said.

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“If the Koch Brothers start attacking Bill then we are going to defend him,” he added.

Koch and associates have raised $366,100 and spent $259,150 through their New York Progress and Protection P.A.C. to help Lhota in the general election, even as he trails by 50 points in recent polls.

The involvement of Koch, a controversial figure who has bankrolled the movement to repeal Obamacare, has given de Blasio ammunition to attack Lhota in a city where Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans.

For his part, Lhota has said he is in the dark on Koch's independent expenditure. Campaign finance law bars candidates from coordinating with P.A.C.s doing independent expenditures.

The labor-backed pro-de Blasio super P.A.C. has hired Dixon/Davis Media Group, which has done work for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Notably, some of the unions that declined to endorse de Blasio in the Democratic mayoral primary are participating in the new, coordinated effort, including the United Federation of Teachers, which supported Bill Thompson, and 32BJ Service Employees International Union, which supported Christine Quinn.

H.T.C., Gold’s union, also supported Quinn in the primary.

H.T.C. played a role in the labor-backed super P.A.C. that helped vault Scott Stringer to victory in the hotly contested primary race against Eliot Spitzer for the city comptroller’s seat.

“We don’t want to be taking anything for granted here so it’s better for us to be prepared, have everything in place than get caught off guard," said Peter Sikora, state political director for Communications Workers of America District 1. "We could be sitting around sort of giddily clapping our hands but we want to be prepared."

Sikora argued there is no conflict with a super P.A.C. helping de Blasio, who used his current role as the city’s public advocate to fight against corporate campaign donations.

“We have to be prepared to respond to the flood of money that can come at any moment from the Koch Brothers or from any other extremely well-moneyed corporate interests,” Sikora said.

Vincent Alvarez, president of the Central Labor Council, said the super P.A.C. shows labor’s strength, after unions were divided during the Democratic primary.

“Labor is clearly united around Bill de Blasio. We know he’s the best choice to allow labor to have a real voice and a real seat at the table rather than being on the menu where we’ve been so to speak with the current administration,” Alvarez said.

De Blasio campaign spokesman Dan Levitan said the campaign doesn't know anything about the coalition's plans for the independent expenditure. 

UPDATE: Lhota pointed to the group as proof that de Blasio is "bought and paid for" by teachers.