NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio said the widening New York City corruption probe will have no impact on his decision to run for re-election.
But as CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, some are now wondering whether the investigation might limit de Blasio’s role as a Democratic Party leader.
In an interview Friday on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show,” de Blasio said he will “absolutely” run for a second term next year.
He steadfastly insists that he and his team did nothing wrong while federal and state investigators probe his campaign fundraising apparatus.
“All of my predecessors, if you look down through the history in different ways, have supported their parties and their party structures,” he said.
De Blasio has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Still, many wonder whether de Blasio can expand his power base, as he has worked to do since he took office.
After he was elected, de Blasio harbored grand national ambitions. He gave speeches around the county, enlisted elected officials to join his progressive agenda coalition, and formed a political organization to raise money.
But amid the corruption probe, some wondered whether or not de Blasio would speak at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this year – in what amounts to a time-honored tradition for mayors and former mayors of New York City.
“I think it’s very unlikely that Bill de Blasio’s going to have any kind of a formal speaking engagement at the convention this year,” said Jeannie Zaino of Iona College.
De Blasio has aggressively sought the national spotlight since he became mayor. But fallout from the corruption investigations has apparently stymied his luster.
“I think it does make him toxic for the Democratic Party,” Zaino said. “I don’t think that the Clinton campaign is going to want to showcase anybody who has even the tint of challengers in the areas of big donor money.”
Kramer asked de Blasio press secretary Karen Hinton if the mayor would seek a speaking spot at the convention. She passed the buck to one of his political consultants, who in turn passed the buck back to her, Kramer reported.
Hinton confirmed Thursday that subpoenas were delivered to Emma Wolfe, de Blasio’s top political aide; his campaign fundraiser Ross Offinger; consulting firm Berlin Rosen and the nonprofit organization Campaign for One New York, which advanced de Blasio’s political agenda. The Mayor’s office also got a subpoena of its own.
The investigation, jointly run by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., is examining de Blasio’s efforts to help Democrats win the state Senate in 2014 and whether donors to his campaign or the nonprofit received city benefits in exchange for donations.
Probers are seeking to investigate charges that team de Blasio sought to evade individual campaign limits of $10,300 by having donors make big donations to local county committees, which in turn earmarked and funneled the money to specific candidates. Such methods are against the law.
De Blasio was grilled about the scandal on his “Brian Lehrer Show” appearance.
“Did you know what the chain of custody of that money was likely to be?” Lehrer asked the mayor.
“I certainly was not involved in any of the specifics of that day-to-day of different efforts,” the mayor said.
In the interview with Lehrer, the mayor seemed to raise an eyebrow and point in the direction of Albany, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.
“There is something going on here that goes beyond anything we’ve seen previously in the way such situations were treated,” he said. “I think we have to wonder about the motivations behind it, especially the fact that documents were leaked at the state level, inappropriately, and mischaracterizing the reality.”
He suggested that powerful financial or political interests want to put the brakes on his progressive agenda, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported.
“It is not a surprise, and we’ve seen it in many other cases when a progressive tries to get something done, there’s lot of powerful interests that put money into trying to stop it,” he said.
But Dick Dadey, of the good government group Citizens Union said overall, there is much for prosecutors to look at.
“May reading of the law is that these activities were specifically prohibited, because it was an attempt to evade contribution limits by candidates by funneling money through these political committees to these specific candidates,” Dadey said.
The probe began after a criminal referral from the lead investigator at the state Board of Elections.
De Blasio has accused the board of conducting a politically motivated witch hunt. The investigator was appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a frequent de Blasio rival.
Additionally, an animal welfare group that has lobbied de Blasio to ban carriage horses from city streets said last week it had received from federal prosecutors a subpoena that sought documents relating to its fundraising efforts for the Campaign for One New York.
The mayor announced in March he was shutting down 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.
Prosecutors also are looking into the fundraising activities of businessmen with ties to the mayor and a Manhattan nursing home land deal. Other investigations concern high-ranking NYPD officials and the union representing city jail guards.
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