NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio was on the hot seat Thursday, as questions flew about why City Hall was subpoenaed as part of a corruption probe.
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, many were wondering if the mayor’s team broke any fundraising laws, and whether the mayor himself did anything wrong.
Mayor Bill de Blasio was back to work Thursday, less than 24 hours after his administration confirmed that his office and aides were subpoenaed amid investigations into his campaign fundraising operation. De Blasio himself has not been subpoenaed.
De Blasio walked into City Hall trying to project an air of normalcy, despite subpoenas handed down to members of his inner circle, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported.
When confronted by a crush of reporters after leaving an event in Midtown on Thursday, de Blasio said, “We hold ourselves to the highest standard of integrity, everything we’ve done from the beginning is legal and appropriate.”
On Wednesday, City Hall received subpoenas from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan and from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, mayoral counsel Maya Wiley said.
A statement issued by Wiley noted that de Blasio “has not been personally served” and said “we are fully cooperating with the investigation.”
De Blasio, a Democrat, has not been accused of any wrongdoing and has said he and his team did not violate any campaign finance laws.
“There is an investigation going on. We’re going to fully cooperate with that investigation, we look forward to the speedy conclusion of it, but we’ll fully cooperate,” de Blasio said. “But since there is an investigation, I can’t go into any details. That’s an ongoing process.”
Among those subpoenaed was Emma Wolfe, the mayor’s top political adviser and the city’s director of intergovernmental affairs. Also subpoenaed were key fundraiser Ross Offinger, and the political consulting firm Berlin Rosen co-founded by Jonathan Rosen, which works on the mayor’s political campaigns.
The assistant U.S. attorney who signed the subpoenas helped convict former New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
Kramer asked de Blasio how he felt about the subpoenas.
“I feel fine,” the mayor replied, “because everything we’ve done is legal and appropriate.”
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance are trying to determine whether team de Blasio violated the law by circumventing campaign finance limits and earmarking large donations for specific candidates – which is not allowed.
During the 2014 state Senate races, the mayor sought to elect Democrats and defeat Republicans in order to further his political agenda, Kramer reported.
Probers are reportedly also looking into whether promises were made in exchange for donations, Grymes reported.
The top investigator at the state’s Board of Elections asked prosecutors in January to investigate whether the mayor’s advisers broke the law by channeling campaign contributions to Democratic state Senate candidates through a committee not subject to donation limits, so as to evade them.
De Blasio has called the Board of Elections report outrageous. Attorney Laurence Laufer, who worked for de Blasio’s 2013 campaign, said in a letter Sunday to the election board’s chief enforcement officer that the law allowed the types of donations in question.
“I am deeply troubled that your office made a criminal referral that was based on a complete misreading and utter disregard of the state’s unambiguous election laws, and that your blatantly political document was leaked to the press,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, an animal welfare group that has lobbied de Blasio to ban carriage horses from city streets said last week that it had received a subpoena from federal prosecutors that sought documents relating to its fundraising efforts for a nonprofit group that was created to advance the mayor’s policy agenda.
The mayor left after answering just two questions on Thursday, leaving press secretary Karen Hinton to hold the fort. Kramer asked Hinton if the subpoena was for documents.
“Subpoenas generally are for documents and for information,” Hinton replied. “I don’t really know how to answer these questions, because I can’t get into the details of the investigation. Our attorneys have asked us not to get into the details of the investigation, so even if I knew them, I couldn’t answer them.”
Dick Dadey, head of the Citizens Union good government group, said the subpoenas are an indisputable big deal.
“The fact that subpoenas were issued show how serious these charges are, and that these charges are not simply a political attack on the mayor,” Dadey said. “They’re serious charges that are being taken seriously by the U.S. Attorney’s office and other prosecutors.”
Dadey also said he fears the investigation will be a distraction that will slow down government. But Hinton said de Blasio plans to focus on his agenda, city problems, and passing an on-time budget.
The mayor announced in March that he was shutting down the nonprofit group, the Campaign for One New York, launched in 2014. The organization had come under fire from good-government advocates over its receipt of large donations from companies lobbying City Hall, including more than $1 million from real estate developers, some trying to influence the administration’s zoning and housing policies.
Prosecutors also are looking into the fundraising activities of businessmen with ties to the mayor. Other investigations concern some high-ranking NYPD officials and the union representing city jail guards.
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