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Citigroup Ties Dampen de Blasio Radicalism

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- His attacks on Wall Street were a big reason New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio won the Democratic primary. So how did he manage to avoid answering more questions about the fact that his wife, Chirlane McCray, worked for Citigroup (C)?

Wayne Barrett, the veteran investigative journalist who has spent about 40 years pissing off New York politicians of every stripe, called attention to the fact in the New York Daily News two days before the election, but it was clearly too late to make an impact.

What troubles me about this issue, aside from the fact that it makes me feel slightly stupid for writing articles like this one celebrating de Blasio's potential to be New York's first mayor in years who won't reflexively suck up to Wall Street, is the lack of transparency. And since transparency is a word that makes a prominent appearance on de Blasio's campaign Web site, it seems we'd better add hypocrisy to the mix.

The Web site urges us to "Meet the de Blasios" and has a bio of Chirlane, but it conveniently omits the time she spent at Citigroup.

McCray told The New York Times she spent six months at Citigroup, but left because it "was not a good fit." According to Barrett, however, she spent two years there, writing speeches for former CEO Chuck Prince of "We're Still Dancing" fame.

De Blasio campaign spokesman Dan Levitan ignored an emailed request for an interview with McCray, responding merely with the words "the Times is right." He did not respond to a followup email asking about the exact dates of McCray's employment or whether she wrote speeches for Prince.

Citigroup spokesman Mark Costiglio wrote via email that "as a matter of policy, we don't provide details or confirm whether an individual was employed by Citi." Citigroup apparently breaks with that policy from time to time.

The fact that a politician -- or his extremely-involved-in-every-aspect-of-his-campaign wife -- worked for a bank doesn't mean he will automatically cave into its demands. Former Goldman Sachs (GS) executive Gary Gensler, one of the toughest and best regulators Wall Street has faced in years, is evidence of that.

But the sneakiness and hypocrisy exhibited by the de Blasios on this issue -- sneakiness and hypocrisy which appears to have worked, by the way -- is a sad reminder of why Bloomberg's billions appealed to so many New Yorkers. When you've earned billions, in other words, the temptation of taking a sort of sleazy job to pay the bills and to sort of try and cover it up later isn't there.

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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