FUNDRAISING ETHICS PROBE

April 27, 2019 at 5:15 am

Mayor de Blasio’s now defunct fundraising group, Campaign for One New York, faces an ongoing state ethics probe. Joining us with the details is The City reporter Greg Smith.

Aired on April 26, 2019.

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>>> GOOD EVENING.
WELCOME TO "METROFOCUS."
WILL HE OR WON'T HE?
MAYOR de BLASIO SAID THIS WEEK
THAT HE WILL MAKE A DECISION
SOON ON RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT.
THE DEMOCRAT HAS BEEN ON THE
CAMPAIGN TRAIL FOR MONTHS
LEADING MANY TO BELIEVE THAT HE
WILL MAKE IT OFFICIAL AND JOIN
THE PACKED 2020 RACE.
BUT ONE ISSUE THAT COULD COME UP
IF HE DOES RUN, ETHICS.
THE MAYOR FOUND HIMSELF
DEFENDING HIS ETHICS AGAIN AFTER
THE CITY, THE NEW NONPROFIT NEWS
OUTLET, PUBLISHED THIS REPORT
FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF
INVESTIGATION.
ACCORDING TO THE CITY, THE
REPORT REVEALED THAT DESPITE
WARNINGS, de BLASIO BROKE
CONFLICT OF INTEREST RULES BY
SOLICITING DONATIONS FROM PEOPLE
LOOKING FOR FAVORS FROM CITY
HALL.
THE MAYOR HAS PUSHED BACK.
>> I AND MY ADMINISTRATION HAVE
SHOWN THAT WE DO THINGS THE
RIGHT WAY.
WE DO THINGS ON THE MERITS.
WE DO THINGS LEGALLY AND
APPROPRIATELY.
ALL THESE MATTERS HAVE BEEN
LOOKED AT, INVESTIGATED, NO
FURTHER ACTION TAKEN.
THAT'S ALL THERE IS TO IT.
>> FOR A DEEPER DIVE, LET'S
BRING IN THE MAN WHO BROKE THIS
STORY FOR THE CITY,
INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER GREG B.
SMITH.
GLAD TO HAVE YOU BACK.
>> GLAD TO BE HERE.
>> LET'S GET INTO THIS REPORT.
THEY RELEASE AD REPORT TALKING
ABOUT THE MAYOR'S FUNDRAISING
AND SOME OF THE QUESTIONABLE
METHODS THAT HE HAS BEEN
PARTAKING IN THAT I BELIEVE HE
WAS WARNED ABOUT DOING.
>> IT IS A LITTLE COMPLICATED
BUT I'LL TRY TO BOIL IT DOWN TO
THIS.
THE MAYOR WHEN HE ARRIVED AT
CITY HALL IN 2014, CREATED A NOT
FOR PROFIT THAT WAS CALLED THE
CAMPAIGN FOR ONE NEW YORK.
THE IDEA OF IT WAS TO RAISE
MONEY TO PAY FOR POLITICAL
CONSULTANTS TO SUPPORT HIS
POLICIES, AND AT THAT TIME, HIS
BIG PUSH WAS, UNIVERSAL PRE-K
AND THEN ALSO AFFORDABLE
HOUSING.
THAT'S THE BASIC IDEA OF IT.
THE ISSUE IS THIS.
THE QUESTION IS, WHO DOES HE GET
MONEY FROM AND HOW MUCH MONEY
ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
SO DURING THE TIME PERIOD THAT
THE CAMPAIGN FOR ONE NEW YORK
WAS UP AND RUNNING, HE RAISED
$4.3 MILLION AND THE VAST
MAJORITY OF IT CAME FROM PEOPLE
WHO DO BUSINESS WITH HIS
ADMINISTRATION.
AND ARE ACTIVELY SEEKING TAX
BREAKS OR CITY PROPERTY.
THEY WERE DEVELOPERS.
LOTS OF THEM ARE DEVELOPERS.
THERE WAS A COMPANY THAT DOES
FILM, LOCATION STUFF IN THE CITY
THAT NEEDS PERMITS FROM THE
CITY.
SO MOST OF THIS MONEY THAT HE'S
RAISING IS COMING FROM PEOPLE
WHO NEED SOMETHING FROM HIM.
AND THE ISSUE IS THAT, CAN HE
PERSONALLY CALL HIS PEOPLE UP
AND ASK THEM FOR MONEY?
AND HE SOUGHT AND RECEIVED AN
OPINION FROM THE CITY CONFLICT
OF INTEREST BOARD THAT TOLD HIM
EXPLICITLY, YOU CAN ASK PEOPLE
FOR MONEY BUT YOU CANNOT ASK
PEOPLE WHO ARE DOING ACTIVE
BUSINESS WITH YOUR EXECUTIVE
BRANCH FOR ANYTHING.
AND THE ISSUE IN THIS DUI REPORT
THAT I OBTAINED UNDER THE
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAW,
WHICH BY THE WAY, THAT MEANS
THAT IT WAS NOT MADE PUBLIC IN
THE FIRST PLACE, IS THAT HE WAS
WARNED NOT TO DO THIS AND HE DID
IT ANYWAY.
>> WHERE DOES THIS FALL INTO THE
PREVIOUS INVESTIGATION THAT
HAPPENED?
SURE.
THERE ARE TWO PREVIOUS
INVESTIGATIONS.
I'M SORRY.
THERE WERE THREE PREVIOUS
INVESTIGATIONS.
>> OKAY.
>> A LOT OF INVESTIGATIONS.
THE CAMPAIGN FOR ONE NEW YORK IS
THE MOST INVESTIGATED NOT FOR
PROFIT I'VE EVER HEARD OF.
THEY HAD THE MANHATTAN U.S.
ATTORNEY LOOKED IT A.
THE MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY
LOOKED IT A.
AND THE STATE ETHICS COMMISSION
ALSO LOOKED AT IT.
ACTUALLY, THEY'RE STILL LOOKING
AT IT.
THE U.S. ATTORNEY FOUND THERE
WAS NO CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR.
SO THEY CLOSED THEIR
INVESTIGATION.
IT MAY BE MARCH OF 2016 WHERE
THEY BASICALLY SAID, THERE IS
NO, WE CANNOT MAKE A CRIMINAL
CASE.
HOWEVER, WE ARE GOING TO POINT
OUT TO THE PUBLIC THAT THE MAYOR
WAS RECEIVING MONEY FROM DONORS
WHO WERE SEEKING AND RECEIVING
FAVORABLE TREATMENT FROM CITY,
FROM HIS CITY HALL.
BUT THE PROBLEM WITH THE U.S.
ATTORNEYS' FINDINGS, THEY DIDN'T
SPELL IT OUT.
THEY DIDN'T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT
WHICH DONOR, WHAT WERE THE
FAVORS, NONE OF THAT.
WHAT THE REPORT STATED WAS, THIS
IS WHAT HAPPENED.
SO HERE WE HAVE THE MAYOR
CALLING UP A DEVELOPER AT THE
TIME THE DEVELOPER IS DEALING
WITH TRYING TO GET SOME CITY
PROPERTY.
AND THE MAYOR IS CALLING THIS
DEVELOPER UP, THE MAYOR
PERSONALLY, BY THE WAY.
NOT SOMEBODY ELSE DOING IT FOR
HIM.
AND ASKING FOR MONEY FROM THIS
PERSON.
SO YOU PUT YOURSELF IN THAT
PERSON'S POSITION.
YOU HAVE THE MAYOR CALLING UP
AND ASKING FOR MONEY FOR YOU.
SUBSTANTIAL AMOUNTS OF MONEY.
BUT YOU WANT, YOU'RE TRYING TO
GET A TAX BREAK FROM THIS GUY'S
ADMINISTRATION.
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO SAY?
WELL, NO, I'M SORRY.
I CAN'T HELP YOU.
HOW IS THAT TAX BREAK GOING?
SO HE WAS HITTING UP PEOPLE WHO
ARE DOING ACTIVE BUSINESS WITH
HIS ADMINISTRATION AND HE HAD
BEEN WARNED, NOT ONCE BUT TWICE
TO NOT DO THAT.
AND HE BASICALLY JUST TOOK IT
UPON HIMSELF TO IGNORE THIS,
THESE WARNINGS.
AND THE REPORT SUBSTANTIATED
THAT.
THAT HAS NOT HAPPENED IN HIS
ADMINISTRATION.
THE FIRST TIME THE DOI HAS HAD
THIS AGAINST THE MAYOR OF NEW
YORK.
I CAN'T REMEMBER THE LAST TIME
IT HAPPEN.
WHEN THEY GAVE IT TO ME, IT WAS
REDACTION CENTRAL.
THEY HAD CENSORED LIKE A
DRAMATIC PORTION OF THE FINAL
REPORT.
IT WAS LIKE BLACK MAGIC MARKER.
>> IT FEELS ODD THAT IT REFLECTS
THE MUELLER REPORT SO MUCH IN
TERMS OF THE REDACTIONS.
>> THEIR POSITION, FIRST OF ALL,
THEY DIDN'T PUBLICLY RELEASE IT.
WHEN THEY WERE FORCED TO DO SO,
THEY TURNED OVER A PARTIAL
VERSION OF THE THING.
I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S UNDER THAT
REPORT BECAUSE THEY BLACKED OUT
SO MUCH OF IT.
I THINK THE PUBLIC SHOULD SEE
WHAT'S YOU UNDERSTAND THAT.
MY UNDERSTANDING OF IT IS, WELL,
PART OF THE REASON THEY DIDN'T
WANT TO RELEASE IT WAS, SOME OF
IT IS UNSUBSTANTIATED.
SO THERE WAS SOME OTHER
ALLEGATION IN THERE THAT THEY
DIDN'T DISCLOSE.
WE DON'T KNOW WHAT THE
ALLEGATION IS AND WE DON'T KNOW
WHAT THE RESULTS OF THE
ALLEGATION ARE.
WE KNOW THERE ARE THREE FULL
PAGES ARE BLACKED OUT.
THEY DID A SUBSTANTIAL AMOUNT OF
INVESTIGATING BUT WE DON'T KNOW
WHAT HAPPENED.
THEN THEY BLACKED OUT THE NAMES
OF EVERYBODY EXCEPT FOR THE
MAYOR.
YOU CANNOT TELL WHAT THE NAMES
OF THE DEVELOPERS ARE.
WE COULD FIGURE OUT A COUPLE OF
THEM.
BUT YOU CAN'T TELL.
AND YOU CANNOT TELL THE DOLLAR
FIGURES.
HOW MUCH, WHEN THE MAYOR CALLED
UP AND SAID, CAN YOU GIVE ME
SOME MONEY?
HOW MUCH MONEY DID THE
DEVELOPER, WHAT WAS THE CHECK?
AND I CAN TELL YOU THAT USUALLY
WITH POLITICAL DONATIONS, THERE
IS A $4950 CAP.
NOBODY CAN GIVE ANY CANDIDATE
WITHIN AN ELECTION CYCLE MORE
THAN $4950.
BUT WITH THE CAMPAIGN FOR ONE
NEW YORK, THERE WAS, THE SKY IS
THE LIMIT.
SOME OF THE CHECKS WERE FOR
$25,000, $50,000, 100, 150, 250,
AND $350,000 CHECKS THAT WENT TO
THE MAYOR FOR PEOPLE DOING
BUSINESS WITH THE CITY.
>> SO THEN DOES THIS BECOME AN
ISSUE OF, THIS LOOKS REALLY BAD
FOR THE MAYOR?
OR IS THERE ANY KIND OF LEGAL OR
PERHAPS POLITICAL REPERCUSSIONS
HE CAN POSSIBLY SUFFER FROM
THIS?
>> POLITICAL?
HE'S THREATENING TO ANNOUNCE TO
A CANDIDACY FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.
NOW, HOW DOES THIS PLAY IN DES
MOINES?
I DON'T KNOW.
I THINK THAT IT IS A LEGITIMATE
QUESTION ABOUT WHETHER THIS IS
AN ETHICAL PERSON.
>> WELL, I THINK AS WE MOVE
FORWARD WITH AT LEAST DEFINITELY
THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN, THAT
WILL BECOME AN ISSUE SHOULD HE
CHOOSE TO PUT HIS HAT IN THE
RING.
>> CERTAINLY, PARTICULARLY IF
HE'S RUNNING AGAINST A PRESIDENT
WHO HAS HIMSELF CREATED A
CERTAIN AMOUNT OF ETHICAL
REPERCUSSIONS.
HOW CAN YOU RUN AGAINST SOMEONE
LIKE TRUMP IF YOU HAVE YOUR OWN
ETHICAL ISSUES?
AND THE FIRST THING I WOULD SAY
IS, WHY DON'T THEY JUST DISCLOSE
THIS STUFF?
THERE'S A LACK OF TRANSPARENCY
THAT DOES NOT HELP THE MAYOR
MAKE THE ARGUMENT THAT HE'S THE
MOST ETHICAL PERSON HE'S EVER
MET.
AND HE HASN'T REALLY ADDRESSED
THAT YET.
>> ALL RIGHT.
WELL, WE'LL LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR
REPORTING.
I'M SURE YOU WILL DEFINITELY
PRESS HIM ON THAT.
MORE TO COME, DEFINITELY.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US
ON THE PROGRAM.
>> HAPPY TO BE HERE.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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