ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Another campaign finance scandal envelopes Mayor Bill de Blasio as three major real estate developers are forced to pay stiff fines for making improper donations to a political action committee.
De Blasio marched Friday in a downtown climate change rally, getting back in step with his day job. This as he was clearly out of step with a ruling from the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) that three big-time city real estate developers violated the state Lobbying Act by giving contributions to the nonprofit Campaign for One New York, his controversial political action committee, also known as CONY.
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“Do you feel at all embarrassed by the JCOPE decision? They had to pay $65,000 worth of fines,” CBS2’s Marcia Kramer asked de Blasio.
“That’s JCOPE and those companies. I’ve got nothing else to say about that,” de Blasio said.
But there was plenty more to say about JCOPE, which has had a long-running probe of contributions to the mayor’s PAC, after “the Commission learned of lobbyists and clients of lobbyists who, while actively lobbying New York City officials, including the mayor, donated to CONY… in violation of the gift restrictions in the Lobbying Act. and related regulations,” according to the settlement documents.
The developers Brookfield Financial Properties, Toll Brothers, and Greenpoint Landing Developers were fined a total of $65,000, bringing the total penalties associated with CONY to more than $100,000.
WEB EXTRA (.pdf)
- Brookfield Financial Properties Settlement
- Toll Brothers Settlement
- Greenpoint Landing Developer Settlement
“I know we did things the right way in terms of the legal guidance we had, the ethics guidance we had, and most importantly, that the decisions that I have made, my administration has made, consistently, always, about the public interest, period,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio, who himself has been investigated in relation to CONY but was never charged, insisted that even though the developers and their lobbyists made contributions, he did things on the up and up.
“Respectfully, it’s a misunderstanding of how the world works to suggest because we have a free and democratic society and we have a campaigns based on people making donations, that’s all you need to know,” de Blasio said.
Political experts say de Blasio is wrong.
“If the mayor’s not embarrassed by this, there’s something wrong. Here’s another example of mixing public business and politics, and every time he’s done it, guess what? He’s gotten caught,” said political consultant Hank Sheinkopf.
A spokesperson for Toll Brothers insists the company made the donations in good faith. Brookfield and Greenpoint Landing did not return calls for comment.
JCOPE says the probe is continuing.