April 23, 2016
““I have determined that reasonable cause exists to believe a violation warranting criminal prosecution has taken place,” Sugarman wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Post.
The four commissioners — two Democrats and two Republicans — first received the complaint about the mayor’s fundraising efforts in October 2014 and voted unanimously on Jan. 11 to make a criminal referral to the Manhattan DA’s office.
“There is considerable evidence in this case that New York City mayor William de Blasio organized a team dedicated to getting a sufficient number of Democratic New York State senators elected in 2014 to achieve a Democratic majority in the senate. The evidence indicates that de Blasio established a structure, both within and outside City Hall, and entered into an agreement with powerful unions… and political consultants… to raise and spend money to influence senate races,” wrote Sugarman, who was nominated to the post by Gov. Cuomo.
“The evidence demonstrates that the de Blasio team coordinated its fundraising activities with and intentionally solicited contributions for these candidates … in order to evade contribution limits and to disguise the true names of the contributors, conduct which may violate [two election laws],” she wrote.
One of those alleged violations is a felony.
‘I have determined that reasonable cause exists to believe a violation warranting criminal prosecution has taken place.’
– Risa Sugerman, Board of Elections chief investigator
The memo targets de Blasio, his legislative director Emma Wolfe; Ross Offinger, de Blasio’s campaign finance director and treasurer of his political advocacy roup Campaign for One; former Hotel and Trade union official Josh Gold; Jason Goldman of the UFT; and political consultants Neal Kwatra, BerlinRose, AKPD Message Media and Hilltop Public Solutions.
It calls them “Team de Blasio,” and says the nearly $1 million they solicited from big unions and fat-cat donors were steered to the Putnam County and the Ulster County Democratic committees, and then redirected to three candidates: Justin Wagner, Terry Gipson and Cecilia Tkaczyk.
New York’s campaign finance law bars donations of more than $10,300 to a senatorial candidate. But contributors can donate as much as $103,000 to county committees which can then transfer unlimited amounts to individual candidates.
“Based on the evidence that these transfers were pre-arranged, reasonable cause exists to believe that all the contributions were made to the county committees simply as straw donors. Therefore, they should be considered contributions to the candidates and subjected to the candidate’s contribution limits,” the memo charges.”
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““Thousands of documents were produced,” Sugarman wrote. “Review of the documents revealed evidence of campaigns that were coordinated at every level and down to minute detail.”
The coordinated fundraising effort started, she said, with de Blasio, who Sugarman noted also had created the Campaign for One New York to serve as an “independent spending” organization to support his priorities.
“The entire (Senate) fundraising and campaign operation was run from City Hall by de Blasio staff in coordination with unions and Campaign For One New York officers and political consultants,” Sugarman wrote.
The effort also included Emma Wolfe, the mayor’s director of intergovernmental affairs, Offinger and Josh Gold, who at the time was political director for the New York Hotel Trades Council and campaign manager for Campaign for One New York, the report says.
Others said to be on the team included Jason Goldman, the United Federation of Teachers assistant director legislation and political action, Neal Kwatra, founder of Metropolitan Public Strategies who was consulting for the state party, and the political consulting firms of BerlinRosen, AKPD Messaging and Media, and Hilltop Public Solutions.
UFT spokeswoman Alison Gendar said the union “will always fully cooperate with any state or federal inquiry if and when one is made.”
The documents reviewed by Sugarman and her team revealed a pattern of coordination between Team de Blasio, the candidates, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, and the Putnam County and Ulster County Democratic committees.
“Candidates were aware of the pattern of money transfers, the expected arrival of funds, and the necessity of transferring funds out to consultants in a timely manner,” Sugarman wrote.”