At least one New York City mayoral candidate is openly embracing the "fat cat" set as he plans his long-shot bid to run the Big Apple.
Ray McGuire, the former Citigroup investment banking star, has been busy raising money from some of the wealthiest coastal elites, FOX Business has learned. The moves are sure to draw criticism from his opponents, particularly in the city's progressive-leaning Democratic Party, whose nomination he is seeking.
On Tuesday, McGuire hosted a virtual fundraiser via Zoom entitled, “NYC to LA for Ray” that featured top bankers and Hollywood executives who agreed to donate anywhere from $1,000 to $5,100 to access the event.
People in attendance, tell FOX Business that Robert Johnson, the multi-millionaire founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET) was among the attendees. Johnson who sold BET to Viacom in 2001 in a deal valued at $3 billion, is a political iconoclast who called for reparations earlier this year, but also tacitly endorsed Republican President Donald Trump for the 2020 presidential election.
It could not be determined how much Johnson donated, and a spokeswoman declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the McGuire campaign confirmed his attendance, but would not comment further on the event.
At the Zoom event, McGuire spoke about his plans for NYC if he is elected mayor in the 2021 contest, which so far features as many as a dozen candidates. Many of McGuire's rivals -- such as New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer or Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams -- are staples of the New York political scene where McGuire, despite his many years on Wall Street, has relatively low name recognition.
During his remarks, McGuire is said to have emphasized the importance small business plays in the city, and the need to repair mom-and-pop shops and restaurants that have been devastated by the city's ongoing pandemic shutdowns.
McGuire also addressed police reform. He said he would like social workers to address certain emergency responses and take a less aggressive approach in policing tactics.
Other notable donors among the roughly 100 attendees included financier and LionTree LLC founder and CEO Aryeh Bourkoff; Altice cable CEO and chairman Dexter Goei; eight-time Academy Award winner and filmmaker Lawrence Bender; former CEO of software giant Infor, Charles Phillips; Richard Plepler, former CEO and chairman of HBO; L.A. Reid, the former chairman of Epic Records; founder of online retailer Moda Operandi and former Vogue editor Lauren Santo Domingo, and Hollywood Producer Chris Meledandri.
None of these attendees returned a request for comment, but a spokeswoman for McGuire confirmed their involvement.
Democratic strategists are quick to juxtapose McGuire’s fundraising success with his failure to gain traction as evidenced by preliminary name recognition polls. Last month in a survey conducted by the group Education Reform Now Advocacy New York, 755 likely Democratic rimary voters were asked which candidate would land their vote. Ray McGuire scored just 4% while former presidential hopeful, Andrew Yang registered 17%.
In addition, the strategists cited McGuire’s years working on Wall Street, where he has done business with controversial world players including the Saudi Royal family and government, which they said could be hard to explain to the city's left-leaning electorate.
Citigroup's 2008 implosion, for instance, is widely regarded as among the root causes of the financial crisis, though McGuire was not in charge of the unit of the bank that dealt in risky, mortgage-related investments leading to its near insolvency and multiple government bailouts.
"No matter how many people come to his fundraisers, McGuire will have to answer for his involvement with Saudi Arabia,” veteran political consultant Hank Sheinkopf tells FOX Business. “He doesn’t have to be a man of the people but he does have to be a man who can identify with the people.”
A spokeswoman for McGuire told FOX Business, "Fourteen years ago, at the start of the global financial crisis, Ray was part of a deal that helped save General Electric, an iconic American company, from collapse. Ray’s business experience and problem-solving skills are exactly what's needed to stage the most inclusive economic comeback in the history of New York."
The Democratic Primary will be held in June 2021. New York City's current mayor Bill de Blasio is prevented from a third term because of term limits. With Democrats outnumbering Republicans 8-to-1 in New York and dominating city politics, it is all but certain, the next mayor will come from this primary.
Still a wild-card for McGuire and his competitors – which will also include former Obama Housing and Urban Development chief Shaun Donovan -- is this vote will be the first New York City mayoral election to use ranked-choice voting in the primaries.
In ranked-choice, votes list the candidates in order of preference. First, ballots are counted for each voter's top choice. If a candidate has more than half of the vote based on first-choices, that candidate wins. If not, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. The voters who selected the defeated candidate as a first choice then have their votes added to the totals