Sunday, December 25, 2016

How Pay to Play Works Inside City Hall . . . de Blasio Contributors developers and City Contractors

De Blasio Allegedly Personally Lifted Dangerous BuildingVacate Order For A Top Fundraiser( Kings County Politics) Mayor Bill de Blasio personally intervened on behalf of one of his leading fundraisers to have a partial vacate order lifted on a building the City deemed as unlicensed, illegal and improperly worked on, knowledgable sources told Kings County Politics.  The incident stems from December 2014, when it is alleged that de Blasio personally intervened on behalf of Satmar Rabbi Moish Indig to have a vacate order lifted on two adjacent Satmar school buildings at 88 and 96 Sanford Street in Bed-Stuy.  One of the buildings was entered without a permit, and the other was found to have illegal classes in the basement. A city Department of Buildings (DOB) inspector cited it for having dangerous electrical work among other violations. The newer building was literally built in weeks, and received construction permits retroactively.  After Indig and the Satmars received the vacate order, DOB Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Ira Gluckman allegedly was called under pressure from the de Blasio Administration to intervene. It was during the meeting between Gluckman and Indig at the properties in question that de Blasio allegedly personally called in on Indig’s cell phone to inquire on status of the buildings and ordered Gluckman to have the vacate order rescinded.  The inspector that signed the lift order specified that it was done as per Gluckman, implying that the inspector was uncomfortable to green light it. Here is the DOP lift order.  The story of de Blasio’s intervention came to light in late 2014 when Kings County Politics Founder/Editor Stephen Witt was working as a freelance editor/reporter for Our Time Press in Bedford Stuyvesant. While investigating the story, Witt questioned de Blasio’s press office and the DOB about the allegation, and former Deputy Press Secretary Wiley Norvell said there was no truth to it.  “The mayor had no such contact on this issue, nor took any action. Nor did any staff become involved beyond the standard agency communications we have keeping us updated on their operations,” said Norvell on Jan. 6, 2015.  Witt said he decided against writing the story for Our Time Press out of fear that the de Blasio Administration would seek retribution. Additionally, he felt the media climate at the time was so pro-de Blasio that he would be painted as a crackpot, hurting both his infant startup, KCP,  and if that didn’t work out, his chances of getting another staff position at a larger media outlet. “In hindsight, I regret this decision and personally want to apologize to Our Time Press Publisher/Editor David Greaves, who knew about the story and respected my decision not to run with it because of my economic situation,” said Witt.  Witt is an award-winning news journeyman journalist with over 25 years experience as a staff reporter and freelancer at both large and small news organizations. He gave his notes and corresponding emails on this story to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office in late December 2016.  Within days of contacting the office the New York Post reported that one of Indig’s cell phones was seized.  Federal prosecutors are questioning De Blasio today and the New York Times reports that questioning will center around de Blasio’s relationship with Indig.*  Feds probe school to see if de Blasio re-opened it as ‘favor’ (NYP) Federal prosecutors are examining whether Mayor de Blasio ­reopened a religious girls’ school in Brooklyn closed for safety violations as a favor to a political donor, sources said.  Williamsburg rabbi and prominent Democratic fund-raiser Moishe Indig allegedly asked City Hall to lift a Satmar school’s partial vacate order in December 2014, sources said. “They just found out about it and they’re looking at it,” said one City Hall source familiar with the inquiry. “This info came late to them.”  City building inspectors had found several “illegal classrooms” in the basement of the Sanford Street school and issued a partial vacate order on Dec. 18, 2014, for a “failure to maintain the building,” city building records show. Six days later, on Christmas Eve, the order was rescinded when Brooklyn Building Commissioner Ira Gluckman inspected the premises himself, records show.  One source close to Indig, whose Aroni Satmar sect ran the school, said the Hasidic power broker called the mayor at the time and asked him for assistance.  “He called the mayor and the mayor overturned the agency and they got a free ride,” the source said.  A de Blasio spokesman asserted that the mayor “never intervened in this issue. Period.”  Members of Indig’s family told The Post Saturday that he was not available to comment. Investigators have zeroed in on the mayor’s relationship with several political donors, including Indig, and any favors they have received from City Hall.  Indig, 46, has successfully solicited donors to contribute to the mayor’s campaigns and co-hosted a well-attended fund-raiser in Williamsburg in October 2013.  Since the mayor’s election, Indig has acted as an all-purpose City Hall “go-between” in Brooklyn’s heavily Orthodox neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park, sources said.  Indig handed over his cellphone and documents to federal agents in December as part of the inquiry, The Post reported.* Moishe Indig, latest focus in de Blasio probe, has longties to mayor (PoliticoNY)
Michael Benjamin‏@SquarePegDem Moshe Indig (c), a figure in city corruption probes, plays the influence game well. Rubbing elbows & taking pics are impt parts of the con.

de Blasio Personally Extorted A Film Company For $$ and for Campaign For One NY Lets Do Away With the Fake Media Talk of His Aides Running the Pay to Play Operation
Brooklyn film company owner donated to Mayor de Blasiofund-raiser over fear her business would suffer (NYDN)  Directly hit up for big-dollar donations by Mayor de Blasio and his associates, the owner of a movie and TV production services company complied for fear that her business would be crippled if she failed to raise money for the mayor’s causes, her husband told the Daily News.  “There was never a threat or anything, but if your boss says you gotta do it, you gotta play ball,” lawyer John Ciafone said of his wife Gina Argento, the power behind Broadway Stages in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  “He’s asked her (for money) and then his minions asked her and Broadway Stages.”  The requests paid off — Argento raised $167,000 for the mayor and his causes, including writing four checks totaling $70,000 from herself and her companies.  Ciafone said Argento felt as if she didn’t have much choice. As part of its business, Broadway Stages, a full-service production facility, often needs to film on city streets, thus requiring permits from the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment. Delays in issuing permits, or, worse, denials, could be financially devastating. “They have a film business and they rely uniquely on the Mayor’s Office of Production. You gotta work with the mayor,” Ciafone said. He described the mayoral solicitations, as well as the pressure his wife felt, on Friday — exactly when de Blasio underwent questioning by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office in an investigation of pay-to-play allegations in City Hall. 
De Blasio personally asked Argento to give to his now-defunct non-profit, Campaign for One New York, Ciafone said. The group could take donations of unlimited amounts, in contrast to the highly restrictive donation amounts to which political campaigns must adhere.  Argento has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to multiple politicians, including Sen. Chuck Schumer and Gov. Cuomo. Since January 2013, she and her brother, Anthony, have written 216 checks to city and state politicians and parties totaling more than $520,000. She bundled 31 checks worth $97,780 for de Blasio after he won the mayoral primary in 2013, then was the first to donate to CONY shortly after he arrived at City Hall. Her name was on a list of prospective donors in a Jan. 21, 2014 email from Ross Offinger, CONY’s financial director. Offinger said he was “shooting for” support from these donors, and a mayoral aide who received the email suggested that the discussion about donors should be taken off the “official string.” Three days after the email, Argento wrote two checks to Campaign for One New York, one in her name and a second via Broadway Stages. In October 2014 she wrote a $10,000 check under an affiliated company to an upstate Democratic Committee as part of de Blasio’s failed push to tilt the state Senate to the Democrats. Finally, in May 2015 she wrote another $10,000 check to CONY. De Blasio appointed Argento to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and the city Workforce Development Board. A mayoral spokesman said she was appointed to the workforce board “because of her experience in the film and television industry and years as a small business owner who has created local jobs.” In recent weeks, the state controller declined to approve a deal to sell state land in Staten Island to Broadway Stages for a production studio they wanted to build on the    * The Post writes that de Blasio’s endless drive to win respect as a national progressive leader hit another banana peel Saturday with the defeat of his candidate to lead the Democratic National Committee.

DiNapoli Stop de Blasio's Pay to Play Hollywood Because of Studio's Owner Contributions to deB and CONY Under Federal Investigation 
Former prison won't become a film studio in midst of de Blasio probe (NYP) State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has rejected the sale of state-owned land on Staten Island to a buyer that’s caught up in federal and state probes of Mayor de Blasio’s fundraising.  Broadway Stages won a bid in February 2014 to buy the former Arthur Kill Correctional Facility for $7 million from the state’s Empire Development Corp. and convert it into a 69-acre TV and film studio. But the firm’s plans — which included $20 million in promised capital investments — are stalled because co-owner Gina Argento has been a prominent donor to de Blasio fundraising efforts that are currently under investigation. “Broadway Stages and its owner and president, Gina Argento, appear to be involved parties in State and Federal investigations into campaign contributions to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio,” The Comptroller’s office also questioned the $7 million sale price, given that two state appraisals had put the value much higher.  Argento and her associates have for years been prolific donors to politicians on both sides of the aisle.   She rounded up $111,805 for de Blasio’s 2013 mayoral campaign and, with Broadway Stages, gave $60,000 to the mayor’s shuttering non-profit — the Campaign for One New York.   An affiliated LLC – Kingsland 339 – gave $60,000 to the Working Families State Party and Puntam County Democratic Committee in late 2014 as part of de Blasio’s 2014 senate push.  Federal officials are probing donations to the mayor’s causes, while the Manhattan District Attorney is probing the mayor’s fundraising push for the 2014 state senate Democrats.  Argento has also given more than $115,000 to Cuomo’s 2018 re-election campaign, and made small contributions to DiNapoli’s campaign committee.

De Blasio Donations Tied to Two Contractors Eyed byInvestigators: Records (DNAINFO) City investigators are looking into $45,000 in donations that workers from two related construction firms made to Mayor Bill de Blasio's 2013 campaign, city records show.  DNAinfo New York first reported in October that the Department of Investigation opened a probe into de Blasio fundraiser Husam Ahmad and his construction companies, HAKS and SIMCO Engineering.  DNAinfo reported at the time that both HAKS and SIMCO — which each have city contracts worth tens of millions of dollars — said in disclosures to the Mayor's Office of Contract Services that DOI investigators executed search warrants on their offices on Aug. 17. But in a recent disclosure to the city, HAKS said the search warrant sought information on campaign donations.  "It referred to an investigation into political contributions as well as the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise status of another engineering company with common ownership interest," HAKS said in the disclosure. The company with the disadvantaged business enterprise status is SIMCO, which Ahmad partly owns. The government grants the status to minority and economically disadvantaged firms to help them obtain contracts and to increase diversity on municipal projects.  Ahmad, the co-founder, chairman and CEO of HAKS, personally bundled $6,400 in contributions from HAKS employees to de Blasio's 2013 mayoral run, campaign finance records show.  HAKS employees donated an additional $32,900 that was not bundled by Ahmad to de Blasio's 2013 campaign and transition team. SIMCO employees gave $5,800 in donations to de Blasio's 2013 campaign, records show.  Ahmad did not donate directly to de Blasio — principals of firms that do business with the city can only give a maximum of $400 to a city candidate per election cycle. But Ahmad's wife, Uzma, has given a total of $13,450 to de Blasio's 2013 and 2017 campaigns. In June 2014, de Blasio appointed Ahmad to the board of advisors of the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, a nonprofit that solicits donations to promote city causes. Records show that HAKS donated between $20,000 and $59,000 to the Mayor's Fund in 2015.  The mayor also appointed Ahmad to his Workforce Development Board, which consists of leaders from the private sector, public agencies and unions who advise the city on its policies about job seekers, employers and adult learners.

de Blasio B List Celebs and Staffers Biggest Campaign Donors  
De Blasio’s biggest campaign donors are celebs, ex-staffers (NYP) de Blasio’s biggest campaign boosters over the past six months include Hollywood celebs promoting his progressive agenda and former top staffers who left him for the private sector.  De Blasio’s re-election campaign reported pocketing $1,073,908 in donations since mid-July and spending $592,606, according to his latest filings submitted Tuesday to the city’s Campaign Finance Board.  Although more than four-fifths of the 3,261 new donations were under $250, de Blasio scored $4,950 – the maximum allowable under campaign finance laws – from dozens of supporters. The big donors include actors Steve Buscemi and Cynthia Nixon, designer Diane von Furstenberg, composer Jonathan Scheffer, de Blasio’s former Communications Director Karen Hinton, who left City Hall last year, and former Senior Adviser Peter Ragone, who left in 2015.  The campaign’s key expenses over the six months included shelling out $60,045 in consulting fees to Ross Offinger and another $42,500 to the firm  BerlinRosen. As part of a widening probe of City Hall, the feds have been looking at past fundraising activities for de Blasio by Offinger and political consulting work by staffers at BerlinRosen.  With the latest filing, de Blasio has now amassed a campaign war chest of $3.3 million for his re-election bid and has $2.2 million in hand.  However, he was out-raised and outspent over the past six months by deep-pocketed developer Paul Massey, a political novice running as a Republican for mayor who raised $2.9 million. This includes nearly $1.63 million in donations – slightly more than half that came from residents living outside the city — and $1.27 million of his own money that he loaned to the campaign.  Massey, who only kicked off his fundraising August, has already spent a whopping $1.8 million on his campaign – much of it on staff and consultants. Others who announced candidacies to run for mayor include former NYPD detective Bo Dietl, who raised $282,656 since mid-July; former New York Jet-turned-minister Michel Faulkner, who raised $206,591; and state SenTony Avellawho raised $750 after kicking off his candidacy last month.  Comptroller Scott Stringer, who is considering a mayoral run but has not declared his intentions yet, raised $346,961 over the past six months. His campaign fund has raised more than $2 million and has $1.7 million in hand.* Mayor Rakes in Campaign Cash from Billionaires Even as heCampaigns on a Message that the very Rich Oppose Him (NY1)

Another Joke Massey Raises Big Money to Pay Consultants Who Do Nothing To Win in A GOP That Tried to Sell It Line to Smith in 2013 and Corrupt Cult Like Independence Party

de Blasio Goes for Small Donations As He is Being Investigated by Feds for His PACs Large Donations
Mayor de Blasio Seeks Small Donations to Fill War Chest Amid Inquiries (NYT)  Facing federal and state inquiries surrounding his fund-raising practices, Mayor Bill de Blasio has shifted his re-election strategies.* Steady Cash Flow in Mayor's Re-election Bid, Campaign Says (NY1) Mayor Bill de Blasio’s re-election campaign says it has raised more than $1 million over the last six months.* De Blasio raisesjust over $1M for reelection campaign — much less than his Republicanchallenger Paul Massey (NYDN) * De Blasio raisesjust over $1M for reelection campaign — much less than his Republicanchallenger Paul Massey (NYDN)  De Blasio 2017 has raised just $96,824.50 from Staten Islanders, or 2.92% of more than $3.3 million citywide.

Another de Blasio Fund Raiser Arrested In Williamsburg 
As Feds Look for Info On the Mayor's Pay to Play Operation 

FBI busts Hasidic leader who raised campaign funds for deBlasio (NYP)  A prominent Hasidic leader raised campaign funds for Mayor de Blasio while allegedly defrauding the food stamp program for $30,000.  Yitzchok (Isaac) Sofer hosted a de Blasio fund-raiser in October 2013 and is a leader in the Satmar group that backed the mayor just before the September 2013 primary.  In a complaint unsealed in Brooklyn Federal Court Thursday, Sofer was charged with unlawfully collecting Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) funds from late 2013 through June of this year.  A source said Sofer has told people he was questioned a few weeks ago by the feds about his fund-raising and his contacts with Avi Fink, a top de Blasio aide  Sofer is identified as a governmental relations contact for the Central United Talmudic Academy, which operates religious schools in Brooklyn. Records show that in 2015 the academy hired lobbyists to press City Hall on issues related to development. Among those lobbied in January and February 2015 was Fink, the mayor’s liaison to the Jewish community.Fink was questioned earlier this year by the city controller about his meeting with a de Blasio donor who wanted a deed restriction lifted on a nursing home. The restriction was lifted and the owner sold the building to become luxury condos.  The academy also lobbied the de Blasio agencies that grant zoning changes and building permits.  In a complaint filed by Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Robert Capers, Sofer was charged with lying about his income to fraudulently get more than $30,000 in food stamps over four years. He claimed on a life insurance application he was making $100,000 a year and owned $600,000 in assets, but told the city he was earning $13,000 a year and had no other financial assets. In a complaint filed by Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Robert Capers, Sofer was charged with lying about his income to fraudulently get more than $30,000 in food stamps over four years. Two other de Blasio fund-raisers have already been arrested in an unrelated bribery scandal. A Brooklyn businessman, Jona Rechnitz, who gave $100,000 to de Blasio’s nonprofit, Campaign for One New York, is cooperating with Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office. Jeremy Reichberg held a fund-raiser for de Blasio a week after Sofer hosted his. Reichberg has pleaded not guilty to charges of bribing cops for favors.* Conservative group sues city, de Blasio over the mayor'sinteractions with South Africa ambassador (NYDN) *  De Blasio fundraisers Jona Rechnitz, an investor who secretly pleaded guilty to fraud related to police bribery, and Harendra Singh, a restaurateur arrested for allegedly bribing a Long Island official, are both reportedly cooperating in investigations into the de Blasio administration's fundraising and possible quid-pro-quo arrangements with donors.* The Daily News reports that Sofer may have been questioned about his 2015 lobbying to mayoral Jewish liaison Avi Fink about development issues. Fink was reportedly questioned this year by the city comptroller about his meeting with a de Blasio donor who wanted, and got, a deed restriction lifted on the Rivington House nursing home, which the developer immediately turned around and sold to become luxury condos.  In a statement to reporters, Michael Tobman, consultant to the Aroni Satmar, said that Sofer's alleged fraud has no bearing on the community, and probably isn't a crime.

FBI grills de Blasio’s Satmar pals in fundraising probe (NYP) Federal investigators are questioning leaders in Williamsburg’s Hasidic community in their expanding inquiry into Mayor de Blasio’s fund-raising practices, multiple sources told The Post. Rabbi and political fund-raiser Moishe Indig was questioned by FBI agents on Wednesday. Indig referred them to his attorney but agents seized one of his cellphones, the sources said. “They told him, ‘It’s all about Bill,’ and they want more information from him,” said one source close to Indig, a de Blasio ally. “They have an interest in Moishe because they’re digging into de Blasio’s fund-raising tactics and they want to know what favors they [Hasidic community members] are getting back from the mayor,” the source added.  Agents visited Rabbi David Niederman on Thursday, but Niederman referred them to his lawyers, two sources said. Niederman told The Post federal agents did not visit him.  Federal authorities on Thursday arrested Williamsburg political operative Yitzchok “Isaac” Sofer on charges he lied about his income to obtain $30,000 in food stamps.   The FBI interviewed Sofer two weeks ago about mayoral fund-raising and influence peddling, but he refused to rat on his friends at City Hall, the sources said. The sources believe the FBI brought the food-stamp charge to squeeze information from him.  “They know Sofer is a progressive Hasidic Jew who is friendly with all these guys in the administration including [top de Blasio aides] Avi Fink and Emma Wolfe,” a City Hall source said. “People in the community come to him to fix their problems and he has amassed his influence.”  Indig, Niederman and Sofer are influential leaders in the Satmar community, one of the city’s largest Hasidic sects. De Blasio ­aggressively courted the Satmars in his 2013 mayoral campaign. It was Indig who convinced leaders of the Satmars’ Aroni faction to shift their support from Christine Quinn to de Blasio two weeks before the contentious 2013 Democratic primary, sources said. Sofer said at the time that de Blasio’s support for private religious schools was a main reason for the endorsement. Sofer and Indig were the hosts of an Oct. 3, 2013, fund-raising event for de Blasio, according to the mayor’s campaign Web site.  Indig, who landed on de Blasio’s “Worst Landlords” list back when the mayor was public advocate, has attended at least two meetings at City Hall with Niederman and other religious leaders, according to the mayor’s official schedule.  But Indig has never registered as a lobbyist despite advocating on issues important to the Orthodox community, sources said.  “Developers go to Indig with issues with their properties, hoping to get permits expedited or rezonings approved by the city,” said one Williamsburg source. “People hire him privately to get things done.” Sofer, 39, works in government relations for the Central United Talmudical Academy, which is tied to the Aroni faction. The yeshiva’s lobbyist, Capalino+Company, pressed Fink and other City Hall officials in early 2015 to open a universal-pre-K program at the site.  The FBI raided the academy’s offices in March, possibly as part of a probe into the use of federal school-lunch funds, reports said.  CUTA spokesman Michael Tobman called Sofer’s arrest a “personal matter having nothing to do with the larger community or its institutions.” Sofer did not return a message seeking comment.  State and federal grand juries are reportedly hearing evidence about de Blasio administration fund-raising. The city’s Campaign Finance Board fined de Blasio $47,778 on Dec. 15 for improperly spending taxpayer-matching funds on personal expenses.

LI Official Resigns Tied To Federal Rat Singh Who is Also de Blasio Fund Raiser 
Official resigns amid bribery indictment tied to Mangano (NYP) A longtime town supervisor on Long Island, who was indicted alongside Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano on bribery charges, is resigning, he announced Tuesday.  The news comes nearly three months after Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, Mangano and the executive’s wife Linda were charged in a pay-for-play scheme involving a local restaurateur.  Venditto and the Manganos are accused of taking bribes from restaurateur Harendra Singh in exchange for helping him secure lucrative county contracts and loans.  Linda allegedly raked in $450,000 from a no-show job as a “food taster” at one of Singh’s eateries in Queens, while the family received lavish trips to Florida, Turks and Caicos and St. Thomas, prosecutors said. Singh, who is charged in a separate indictment, also gifted Venditto and his family limo rides around town and provided discounted rates for Venditto to use his restaurant for fundraisers.
Singh Update Federal bribery trial for Harendra Singh indefinitelydelayed (Newsday)

Singing Singh Federal Rat Donated More Than $54.000 to de Blasio Pleaded Guilty to Bribing Mangano and Other GOP on Long Island  
Restaurant Owner Central To Ed Mangano Case ContributedTo De Blasio Campaign (WCBS) A restaurant owner central to the case against Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his wife is also a major donor to Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose fundraising activities are under investigation by federal and state authorities.  Harendra Singh was named as “co-conspirator #1” on the indictment of Mangano and others.  He also donated thousands of dollars to de Blasio when he ran for office, and his generosity was rewarded with a number of key appointments, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported.  U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who is probing de Blasio’s campaign fundraising activities, is trying to determine if there were any quid-pro-quos, with donors receiving favors in return for their contributions. More than $54,000 were donated to de Blasio’s mayoral campaign and transition committee by Singh and various relatives. Singh was then appointed to a number of prestigious posts on de Blasio’s inauguration committee, the committee backing the city’s failed bid to get the Democratic National Convention, and the committee to support and raise money for the mayor’s pre-k initiative called UPKNYC, Kramer reported. Expected to be of particular interest to investigators are Singh’s problems with his Queens restaurant, The Water’s Edge, and the city’s attempt to evict him for owning $1.4 million in rent underpayments.

Post Rips Off Nahmias PoliticoNY Story On Campaign for One NY Donors Giving to GOP and Conservative Causes Leaves Out the Singh Manghano Pay to Play Connection 
Ideology explains CONY fund-raising only if “progressive” means “pay to play.” 
De Blasio’s strange ‘progressive’ bedfellows (NYP) Either Mayor de Blasio thinks Republicans are progressives — or he’s one lousy liar.  To answer charges he was selling City Hall access (at least) for donations to his shady Campaign for One New York, de Blasio said on NY1 last month, “We sought donations from people who had historically given to . . . progressive causes.”  Oops: Turns out, “more than a dozen” CONY givers had funneled hefty sums to conservative groups and candidates, like Donald Trump and Chris Christie, Politico New York reported Tuesday.  Stanley Chera’s real-estate firm, Crown Acquisitions, forked over $20,000 to CONY in 2015. Yet Chera also gave $30,000 to super PACs backing Christie and $50,000 to Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee. Chera’s now on Trump’s transition team. Is he a “progressive”?  Developer George Klein sent $50,000 to CONY. Yet he also pumped $216,600 to the RNC and $125,000 to a group backing Jeb Bush — who bashed de Blasio’s pre-K expansion, the original raison d’être for CONY.  Businessman John Catsimatidis ponied up $20,000 for CONY — the year after running for mayor in the GOP primary.  Bruce Toll gave to donkeys like Hillary Clinton and Sen. Chuck Schumer and GOPers like Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. Seems the $25,000 his firm handed CONY has less to do with “progressive” values and more with the fact that it holds property near de Blasio’s planned streetcar. Joseph Dussich bundled $32,000 for de Blasio’s 2013 GOP foe, Joe Lhota. But his donations to CONY hit $100,000 — and then he landed a city contract for rat-repellent trash bags that had long eluded him.

de Blasio has defended raising millions of dollars for a nonprofit that backed his political agenda by saying the group targeted contributors who share his progressive vision on issues like universal pre-kindergarten and affordable housing. "We sought donations from people who had historically given to, donated to, Democratic Party causes, progressive causes, to my candidacy, et cetera, and there was no preference given to them in any way, shape or form," de Blasio said Monday during a television interview on NY1. The mayor has repeatedly denied that the group's donors - many of whom had business before the city - received any special treatment from the administration, pointing instead to the shared ideology on a host of progressive issues to explain the millions of dollars in donations. De Blasio has also drawn a distinction between his nonprofit - called the Campaign for One New York - and the flood of unregulated money that flowed to conservative groups after the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United, saying his own supporters were not trying to "undermine the democratic process." But a POLITICO New York review of the Campaign for One NY's fundraising shows that many of its donors have given liberally to powerful politicians in both parties, and more than a dozen have significantly funded conservative causes and candidates - like Donald Trump, Scott Walker and Chris Christie - who have openly opposed the mayor's progressive agenda. (PoliticoNY) 
John Quaglione ‏@JQuaglione  This is interesting: "Catsimatidis gave $20,000 to de Blasio’s nonprofit, 1 yr after he lost GOP nomination for mayor"

How Pay to Play Works Inside City Hall
In response to investigative stories showing developers coughed up cash to do business with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the administration denied any existence of pay-to-play, the Daily News reports.

Here's what prosecutors are probing in Mayor de Blasio’s fund-raising (NYDN) Federal and state law enforcement authorities are probing Mayor de Blasio’s fund-raising. Here’s what they’re looking at:

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is examining whether anyone in the administration engaged in extortion or bribery — either by making an explicit quid-pro-quo exchange of money for favors or by using the power of the mayoralty for the personal benefit of bolstering campaign chests.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. is investigating whether de Blasio’s drive to place the state Senate under Democratic control by unseating upstate Republicans was a misdemeanor violation of election law.  Rather than encourage individuals to write checks to Democratic candidates under donation limits, de Blasio’s team targeted deep-pocketed donors to write checks of up to $103,000 to upstate political party committees — which are supposed to use such gifts only for general party purposesInstead, de Blasio’s team, the Democratic State Senate Committee and several small upstate Democratic committees coordinated in targeting the funds toward individual races, according Risa Sugarman, chief enforcement officer of the state Board of Elections. Sugarman saw a scheme “to evade contribution limits and to disguise the true names of the contributors.” She recommended criminal prosecution for a “willful and flagrant” violation of the law.

The State Joint Commission on Public Ethics
The state Joint Commission on Public Ethics has zeroed in on whether donations by lobbyists and their clients constituted illegal gifts to city officials. City politicians are forbidden from taking money from businesses or individuals doing business with the city.

de Blasio's Gentrification Money Train Street Car Rakes In $$$ for Mayor and his Campaign for One NY PAC
Developers withprojects along de Blasio's planned Brooklyn-Queens streetcar route throw cashat mayor's nonprofit campaign (NYDN) All aboard the mayor’s money train, a planned streetcar from South Brooklyn to northern Queens that appears to have triggered developers with projects along the route to donate big money to de Blasio’s favorite causes. First came the push to get de Blasio to back the $2.5 billion taxpayer-supported streetcar running from Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to Astoria, Queens. Supporters call it the Brooklyn Queens Connector, or BQX. Then came the checks from six developers, totaling $245,000, to support de Blasio’s favorite causes. The developers sent the checks to the mayor’s nonprofit Campaign for One New York. Shortly after de Blasio took office in 2014, chief fund-raiser Ross Offinger drew up a list of business and real estate leaders from whom he planned to solicit “support” for the mayor’s newly formed Campaign for One New York.  Brooklyn builder Jed Walentas, leader of Two Trees Management Co., was among those on the list, according to documents released by the city. At the time, the mayor wanted to talk to Walentas, emailing public relations guru Jonathan Rosen for Walentas’ cellphone number soon after taking office in January 2014. The plan Friends of the BQX submitted to the city had the trolley stopping at the doorsteps of seven major developments, including two spearheaded by Walentas — his DUMBO condo properties and Domino’s in Williamsburg. Most of these projects were far from subway stops, so a trolley would boost their property values. As Walentas and Friends of the BQX began lobbying the de Blasio administration, owners of the developments along the route began writing checks to de Blasio’s Campaign for One New York , the nonprofit group set up by the mayor as he took office.

On March 16, 2015, Park Tower Group, co-developer with Brookfield Properties of a luxury and affordable housing complex called Greenpoint Landing, donated $50,000.  On April 2, 2015, Walentas donated $100,000 — but did so through a limited liability corporation that obscured the source of the check. His connection appears only in corporate documents filed with the Secretary of State and in property records.  The next day, Toll Brothers, the developer of the Pier House hotel and condos at Brooklyn Bridge Park, kicked in $25,000.  Three weeks later Alma Realty, whose Astoria Cove complex would mark the line’s northernmost stop, wrote a $5,000 check.  RAL Development, builder of two luxury and affordable housing towers on Furman St. in downtown Brooklyn, donated $10,000 on May 27. Brookfield Properties sent $50,000 on the same day. Finally, on Jan. 12, Steiner Studios, a movie lot near a potential trolley stop at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Fort Greene, ponied up $5,000.  All told, the developers poured $245,000 into de Blasio’s Campaign for One New York.

de Blasio and his Deputy Glen Operates As A Developer Pay to Play Toll Booth for the de Blasio Campaign and Campaign for One NY PAC
De Blasio's deputy Alicia Glen appears to lead the chargeof helping donors get what they want (NYDN) The public schedule for one of Mayor de Blasio’s top deputies provides some answers to the basic question: What do people who donate to Hizzoner’s causes want from City Hall? Glen’s decisions affect the city’s economy and can provide profitable opportunities to developers and entrepreneurs. She meets with many — including de Blasio donors — as they seek approval for projects. The Daily News obtained Glen’s official schedule from Jan. 1, 2015, through March after making a request under the Freedom of Information Law.  During the 15-month period, her schedule shows about half of her meetings or calls with non-City Hall employees — 95 — were with 42 individuals who had hosted fund-raisers, gathered campaign donations for de Blasio or given to the mayor’s non-profit, the now-defunct Campaign for One New York. Some donors wrote checks soon after or just before speaking with Glen, records show.* Despite De Blasio donors with city business, City Halldenies pay-to-play gravy train (NYDN)

In one case, John Zuccotti, late chairman of mega-developer Brookfield Properties, wrote a $50,000 check to the Campaign for One New York on the same day he had a phone conversation with Glen.  Jonathan Gray, head of real estate for the Blackstone Group, transferred $141,000 into to the Mayor's Fund to Advance NYC on June 2, 2015, one day before he was scheduled to meet with Glen.  As it happened, Gray was then negotiating Blackstone’s purchase of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper, vast Manhattan apartment complexes where affordability has been jeopardized by market forces.
 As chairman of Forest City Ratner, another large development company, Bruce Ratner needs city approval for projects. He built Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and is forging ahead with its affiliated Pacific Park development of half market rate, half subsidized affordable apartments. Ratner has hosted two de Blasio campaign fund-raisers. He and his executives bundled $13,600 for the mayor’s 2013 campaign and $15,050 for his re-election effort. In between, Ratner executives met or had phone calls with Glen five times, delivering the last round of campaign checks 18 days before a Jan. 26 meeting with Glen at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where — at the time — Forest City was building modular housing. 
Early this year, WeWork, a vendor that builds shared office space, sought city business. On Jan. 5, 2016, Jon Silvan of Global Strategies, a lobbyist hired by the company, called Glen to discuss “future work” for the firm, City Hall officials said. Early this year, WeWork, a vendor that builds shared office space, sought city business. On Jan. 5, 2016, Jon Silvan of Global Strategies, a lobbyist hired by the company, called Glen to discuss “future work” for the firm, City Hall officials said. 
Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen met with Walentas on Sept. 10, 2015, according to her official schedule. A Sept. 15, 2015, follow-up email written by one of Glen’s assistants noted that Glen “wants to have drinks” with Walentas and another trolley supporter “to discuss the BQX.” Four months later — shortly after the final check arrived at Campaign for One New York — Glen had a final phone call with Walentas, records show.  Initially, the mayor’s office provided The News with a copy of Glen’s public schedule that blacked out the subject of the call. After the News appealed, the subject proved to be: “BQX Connector.”  On Feb. 6, de Blasio made the big announcement: City Hall was 100% behind floating a $2.5 billion taxpayer-backed bond to pay for the BQX Connector. The mayor said he expected the city — not the state — would foot the $30 million annual bill for the trolley’s operation, relying on tax revenue gained through the increased property values along the route. 

Daily News Uses 3 Lobbyists and Investigators Sources Leaks to Explain How Team de Blasio Criminalized Pay to Play At City Hall In Violation of the Election Law
Inside Mayorde Blasio's $4.3M scheme to target big donors doing business with City Hall(NYDN)  The phone calls to the well-paid New York City lobbyists and their clients were straightforward: The mayor wanted donations, and he wanted the clients — who just happened to be doing business with City Hall — to get out their checkbooks.  Mayor de Blasio made one such call in 2014 as he sought financial support for a drive to elect upstate Democrats to the state Senate, recalled a lobbyist who was on the receiving end of the mayoral money plea.  “He was very solicitous,” said the insider, who has long advanced the interests of clients in dealing with city government.  More typically, two additional lobbyists told the Daily News, de Blasio political aide Ross Offinger pressed them to raise money from clients, sometimes suggesting that the lobbyists needed to outdo competitors in gathering checks. Offinger asked one lobbyist to follow up with clients who had already been contacted by the mayor, but reportedly said the lobbyist wouldn’t get “credit” with City Hall because the mayor had already solicited a check from the client. The lobbyist took “credit” to mean City Hall looking favorably on the lobbyist’s requests. Offinger served as finance director for the mayor’s official election committee, as well as treasurer of de Blasio’s Campaign for One New York, a now defunct nonprofit group that was exempt from city campaign finance donation restrictions.  One of the lobbyists recalled Offinger’s pitch for CONY: “He said it was for big donors, minimum of $10K, but it was for people who give in the neighborhood of six figures. It was the biggest of the big donors.”  

Daily News Reports Investigators Have Found Evidence of Pay to Play
Investigators looking at de Blasio’s fund-raising tactics have found evidence that donors expected something from City Hall in return for their generosity.  One lobbyist approached by Offinger told investigators he convinced a developer client who had business with the city to donate to Campaign for One New York, a source familiar with the ongoing investigations said.  The lobbyist told the client the mayor was forming a “kitchen cabinet” and he might be part of it if he donated. The client wrote out a $5,000 check to CONY.  The client didn’t get an appointment, but investigators note that the intent of the donation wasn’t to support pre-K but to get something in return from City Hall. The dialing-for-dollars strategy described by the three lobbyists, who spoke to The News on the condition of anonymity for fear of harming their clients’ interests, is key to understanding a culture of giving and getting that has embroiled de Blasio in state and federal investigations.
Donors who had business pending with the administration gave at least $3 million of the $4.3 million de Blasio raised for his Campaign for One New York — between its first donations on Jan 1, 2014, to when it was shut down in March. All told, they accounted for at least 106 of CONY’s 168 donations. 
Entities doing business with City Hall provided nearly all of the $1.1 million de Blasio’s team steered upstate in its effort to change control of the Senate. 
Often, checks arrived just before, after or on the same day that donors discussed proposed business with top de Blasio administration officials, including Deputy Mayor for Housing & Economic Development Alicia Glen. 
The Campaign for One New York accepted checks from more than 40 donors who concealed connections between giving and getting by making contributions through so-called limited liability corporations, whose owners’ identities are secret. 
Although not required to release donor names, CONY did so voluntarily. Even so, the group withheld critical information about dozens of donors, such as addresses or company affiliations. Four checks totaling $33,000 were listed only by addresses. 

How Team de Blasio Created Campaign for One NY to Violated the Election Law
Entities doing business with the city — from developers seeking zoning waivers to vendors selling wares — are restricted to $400. All contributions are publicly reported, including those that are “bundled” or gathered by a single individual.  De Blasio broke the mold by establishing his nonprofit Campaign for One New York with the stated mission of advancing his public policies, including universal pre-K and expanding affordable housing. In his 2014 effort to flip the state Senate from Republican to Democrat control, de Blasio also blew past city donation limits by steering contributions to political party committees, where checks can go as high as $103,000.  De Blasio also presides over the nonprofit Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, set up to allow private philanthropy to help government. His wife, Chirlane McCray, chairs the fund.

Mayoral Candidate Catsimatidis Pay to Play Contribution to Campaign for One NY Will Be Part of Any Case Against de Blasio
One donor, grocery store mogul John Catsimatidis, did agree to spell out his experience with the de Blasio money-raising machine pressing him for big bucks. In October 2014, the mayor asked Catsimatidis to help him sway the state Senate to Democratic control. Soon after Catsimatidis was contacted by Offinger, who instructed him to send a check for $50,000 to a smD all upstate political committee. Then in 2015 lobbyist Peter Vallone asked Catsimatidis to help him raise $100,000 for Campaign for One New York.  At the time, Catsimatidis owned a company that would benefit from a bill that would require all heating oil to contain a percentage of eco-friendly bio-diesel. That bill, which has yet to pass, would ultimately require the mayor’s approval. On April 21, 2015, Catsimatidis wrote a $20,000 check to CONY along with a group of affordable housing developers who kicked in a total of $100,000. “It was a good friend of mine who asked me to come to a meeting and write a check for $20,000,” Catsimatidis told The News. Vallone did not return calls seeking comment.

de Blasio Promise Broken Cannot Produce A Single Donor That Did Not Get Bag of Goodies From City Hall

Following news of an investigation into his fundraising efforts, de Blasio has failed to follow through on his Promise to release examples of donors to his campaigns and causes who did not receive benefits they had sought from city governmentthe Daily News writes.

Keep your word, Bill and produce the list of donors who got nothing (NYDN) “A stunning number of donors and supporters not only did not get things they hoped they would get, they got a rejection of things they hoped they would get,” de Blasio declared. Going still further, the mayor pledged to release “in the coming weeks” examples of donors to his campaigns and causes who did not receive the benefits they had sought from city government. That was on May 18. Since then, nothing. At the time, de Blasio was under pressure as the Daily News and others dredged up example after example of fortune smiling on donors who sought city actions to advance their business interests. A peddler of rodent-repellent trash bags who had given $100,000 to the mayor’s Campaign for One New York won a meeting with the mayor, a trial Parks Department contract and, finally, a subcontract worth millions. A lobbyist and a labor union, both generous de Blasio backers, had pressed to eliminate deed restrictions on a Lower East Side nursing home property — paving way for the buyer to score a $116 million luxury condo deal. Harendra Singh, operator of Water’s Edge restaurant in Long Island City under a city lease, had provided more than $20,000 to de Blasio’s 2013 election campaign.  Although mayoral aides noted unspecified “vetting issue” and “r/flags,” Singh ended up named both to the board of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and to committee that unsuccessfully sought to lure the Democratic convention to Brooklyn. Singh stayed on the fund board until federal prosecutors charged him with Sandy aid fraud at the Queens restaurant and bribery of officials in Nassau County. He has pleaded not guilty. Now Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is reportedly scrutinizing whether the mayor’s office attempted to intervene on Singh’s behalf after a city audit found that he owed more than $1.7 million in rent and fees on Water’s Edge. Singh and many other donors got the red carpet treatment from de Blasio and deputies. So, what was that again about revealing those who didn’t? Could it be that listing mayoral benefactors who were denied benefits would be as good as listing those who got city goodies? Could it be that when prominent backers — such as the yellow taxi industry and advocates for a ban on carriage horses — did come away empty-handed it was at the hands of a City Council that defied de Blasio’s pressure on the donors’ behalf? Could it be that de Blasio has not a single example in which he disappointed a major donor? You’re the one who promised, Mr. Mayor. Let’s have the list — even if it is a blank sheet of paper.

No comments:

Post a Comment