April 25, 2016
US Attorney Preet Bharara recently reiterated both City Hall and the Governor’s Mansion are “far from immune” to his ever-widening crusade against public corruption. Now, it appears long-time rivals de Blasio and Cuomo – both targets of federal investigations – may be unwittingly engaged in Cold War-esque mutually assured destruction.
From the Daily News:
Mayor de Blasio said Monday that the leak of a damning memo alleging he and his team violated campaign finance laws was nothing more than a dirty political hitjob.
De Blasio said he was mystified why the State Board of Elections document alleging “willful and flagrant” violations during his failed attempt to get Democratic control of the State Senate in 2014 had been made public.
“It’s outrageous and again I don’t know what’s motivating it,” de Blasio said.
“The facts will show that everything was done legally and appropriately.”
The mayor’s comments came four days after the Daily News exclusively reported on the letter written by State Board of Elections Chief Enforcement Officer Risa Sugarman to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.
Sugarman, who was appointed by Gov. Cuomo, said the apparent campaign finance violations warranted a criminal investigation.
On Sunday de Blasio’s campaign lawyer, Laurence Laufer, returned fire, alleging that the letter was leaked to undermine the mayor.
De Blasio reiterated that belief during an unrelated event Monday in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
“Everything that I’ve done has been fully vetted by a variety of lawyers,” he said, adding that Sugarman may be misreading state law.
“When you see an inappropriate leak, when you see the law being misconstrued in such an obvious fashion, of course it begs the question of motivation. ”
Sugarman declined to respond to de Blasio’s criticism.
“I do not know who leaked this document. It wasn’t me or my division,” she said.
She charged in her memo that de Blasio’s team solicited donations to local Democratic committees that then quickly transferred the money to individual candidates, avoiding a $10,300 limit on campaign contributions.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is also said to be examining the donations.
Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group, told The News that such a practice is likely widespread but worthy of examination.
“It’s a legitimate issue but it could be broader than just the Democrats. She should look into all the party committees. This is another example of New York’s disgraceful campaign finance system,” Horner said. “Allowing legal $100,000 donations to the party committees creates this environment. And they can transfer as much of that to the candidates of their choice”
Vance confirmed his office had received the letter regarding the alleged campaign misdeeds but said the publicity surrounding it was not of his concern.
“I’m confident that we can do our job as we would expect, irrespective of the letter’s disclosure,” Vance said.
Gov. Cuomo was not at the root of the leak, his spokeswoman, Dani Lever, said.
From the New York Post:
Gov. Cuomo has renewed his effort to recruit a challenger to Mayor de Blasio next year as the “smell of blood’’ from widening corruption probes has left de Blasio more vulnerable than ever, top Democrats have told The Post.
Cuomo has returned to the effort to oust de Blasio with a vengeance, bolstered by the impact of state and federal probes into the mayor’s official conduct and fund-raising activities, a newly disclosed state Board of Elections memo accusing the mayor and his allies of “willful and flagrant’’ violations of state law, and polls showing de Blasio’s popularity in sharp decline, the sources said.
“There’s the smell of blood around de Blasio. Everybody knows his [polling] numbers are bad, and some of the people who said initially that they were not going to run are now seriously reconsidering,’’ said a prominent Democrat.
“The biggest name out there now is Ruben Diaz,” the source said. “He wasn’t going to do it but that’s now changed, and Stringer is looking at it again also.’’
Cuomo sought months ago to convince Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) to challenge the mayor but abandoned the effort when the congressman insisted he wanted to remain in Washington and the mayor’s public approval ratings began to rise.
Diaz, 42, an ambitious rising star in city politics and son of state Sen. Ruben Diaz, a popular Bronx minister who was born in Puerto Rico, was described by the source — who has relationships with Cuomo, de Blasio and those being mentioned as possible candidates for mayor — as “increasingly interested’’ in Cuomo’s entreatments to challenge the mayor.
Several Democrats also said there’s widespread speculation that Cuomo had a hand in leaking the board’s January memo on Friday — just days after Senate Democrats backed by de Blasio won a major special election on Long Island — that accused de Blasio and his top aides of involvement in an illegal fund-raising scheme to help elect Democrats to the Senate.
The memo was penned earlier this year by Risa Sugarman, a former Cuomo staffer who got her job as the board’s “enforcement counsel’’ on Cuomo’s recommendation.
“The suspicion is that Cuomo was behind the leak, and if he was, nobody would be surprised,’’ said a prominent Democratic activist who has been close to the governor.
Republicans also think that Cuomo may have been involved in the leak.
“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Cuomo’s operatives at the Board of Elections leaked that report on de Blasio,’’ said state GOP Chairman Ed Cox.
Cox said the ongoing investigations of de Blasio would make it a lot easier for the GOP to recruit a strong candidate next year against de Blasio — or another Cuomo-backed Democratic nominee.
“At the very best, de Blasio has had his head in the clouds, wanting to be the ‘progressive leader’ of the world and not paying attention to managing the city, and at the very worst, which is possible here, he’s been mired in corruption,’’ said Cox.
“Either way we are going to run an effective campaign next year, saying it’s time to bring back the integrity that Mayor [Rudy] Giuliani and Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg, both of who won as Republicans, brought to the city,’’ he said.