FUNDRAISING ETHICS PROBE

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.

TRANSCRIPT

> 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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