In our view, when someone donates to a campaign, to the legal limits of that campaign, the politician is beholden.
Politicians, lobbyists and the kingmakers of New York know how the system works. A person can legally donate to the Democratic Committee, to de Blasio’s campaign bids as mayor and now as a potential Presidential candidate, to the not-for-profits associated with the Mayor and to other small organization associated with the mayor. None of those donations is illegal. To the best of our knowledge, even if all roads lead back to de Blasio, even if each penny somehow washes through de Blasio’s hands like sands in an hourglass, the donations are still quite legal, but are they really?
If when grossed-up the donations are all legal, in our view when taken as a whole, the gross-up of the aggregated proceeds of those donations may amount to a form of legal bribery. It should be stopped. We assert further that the aggregated proceeds of the donations could amount to a form of money laundering and conspiracy and while it may be legal (or not) we are most certainly not sure it is ethical.
As a political matter, De Blasio’s loyalties, and those of each of the organizations from which he obtains financial assistance, must naturally rest with the person who has a shekel here, a dollar there, even if each was given legally. And, we don’t see how it is not a conflict of interest when there is a person within the entire structure that sits on multiple boards or within the rank and file of multiple organizations with which de Blasio works and from which he gains his political clout (and perhaps his legal or campaign advice). A contract here, a faulty appraisal there, the closing of an entire hospital center for luxury redevelopment, leaving people on the streets, all legal – “ish?”
We posit that if the people involved in the multiple organizations are also those chosen to make kings out of Judicial hopefuls, to destroy careers when necessary, to allocate money to political hopefuls and the list goes on, there can be nothing but a conflict of interest.
Someone should be paying attention lest New York, more specifically Brooklyn, sink into the abyss of corrupt G-dfather like politics.
Following the money…. will keep you posted.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is no stranger to fundraising scandals, even if the allegations never fully stick. Just last week, The City reported on a previously undisclosed investigation by the city Department of Investigation into potential conflict of interest violations in relation to de Blasio’s fundraising. Earlier this month, the mayor received scrutiny for receiving donations from the lawyer at the heart of a controversial real estate deal between the city and shady landlords.
Here are the other times de Blasio’s fundraising tactics have gotten him into hot water:
Federal campaign finance investigation
In 2013, de Blasio set up a nonprofit called the Campaign for One New York to support his agenda. The now-defunct organization came under federal investigation for possible campaign finance violations in 2016. Federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York subpoenaed thousands of emails and documents from the mayor, his aides, donors to both his 2013 mayoral campaign and the Campaign for One New York to see if donors received favorable treatment from the de Blasio administration. The investigation led to the indictment of two de Blasio donors who became cooperating witnesses – restaurateur Harendra Singh, who admitted to attempting to bribe the mayor through straw donations made to his actual campaign account, and real estate developer Jona Rechnitz, who pled guilty to conspiracy charges and later testified about his close relationship to de Blasio and other benefits as a result of his donations and fundraising. At the investigation’s conclusion in 2017, federal prosecutors did not press charges against de Blasio, but did say that he acted on behalf of donors who sought favors.
Rivington House lobbying
De Blasio and his administration received extensive scrutiny from both New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and the city Department of Investigation for how the city handled the sale of Rivington House, a former nonprofit health care facility, which is now being developed for residential purposes. A for-profit nursing home company, Allure Group, bought the property in 2015 and paid the city $16 million to lift a deed restriction that required the property to remain a nonprofit health care facility, with the expectation that the company would instead build a for-profit nursing home. Instead, Allure sold the property to Slate in 2016, which plans to convert the building to residential use and build condos. The city admitted that it had been “misled” by Allure. Prominent lobbyist and frequent de Blasio donor James Capalino represented both the original owner and Slate. Capalino steered $40,000 to de Blasio 2017 reelection campaign and cut a check for $10,000 to Campaign for One New York after pressuring the city to change the deed.
Around the same time, de Blasio also made headlines for a questionable fundraiser hosted by Suffolk Construction in Boston, a company that is currently looking to expand its business in New York City and recently hired de Blasio’s former public housing commissioner Shola Olatoye. De Blasio did not publicize the fundraiser and did not disclose the host when asked by reporters – but everything was still above board, he later argued, even if the lack of transparency made it seem like de Blasio was “violating the spirit” of his own promise not to accept campaign cash from donors with business before the city, as WNYC’s Brian Lehrer saidwhile interviewing the mayor.
State campaign finance investigation
The state also investigated the Campaign for One New York, although it took a more narrow purview and focused specifically on de Blasio’s fundraising efforts on behalf of state Senate Democrats in 2014, which was only one part of the federal inquiry. State prosecutors, in conjunction with federal prosecutors, sought to determine if de Blasio attempted to circumvent campaign contribution limits by giving donations solicited by de Blasio to smaller county committees, which have no contribution limits. Rechnitz testified that both Ross Offinger, a former campaign fundraiser for de Blasio, and the mayor personally asked him to donate over $100,000 to bolster those efforts. Like in the federal investigation, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. did not press charges against the mayor in 2017, but did say that while there was not enough evidence to indict de Blasio, his actions “appeared contrary to the intent and spirit of the laws that impose candidate contribution limits.”
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