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De Blasio Says He Faces 'Double Standard' on Federal Fundraising Probes

By Jeff Mays | April 29, 2016 4:59pm | Updated on May 2, 2016 8:46am
 Mayor Bill de Blasio said he is being
Mayor Bill de Blasio said he is being "singled out" in regards to a federal probe into his efforts to raise money for upstate senate candidates in 2014 and that a "double standard" was being applied around election laws he is being accused of violating.
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DNAinfo/Nicholas Rizzi

MIDTOWN — Mayor Bill de Blasio said he is being "singled out" by a federal probe into his efforts to raise money for upstate senate candidates in 2014 and that a "double standard" was being applied around election laws he's accused of violating.

"The question is what does the law allow and what is appropriate under the law," de Blasio said Friday morning on "The Brian Lehrer Show" on WNYC.

A January 2016 memo from Risa Sugarman, the state Board of Elections' chief enforcement counsel, accuses de Blasio and his team, including top aide Emma Wolfe, of purposely violating election law by routing donations to three upstate senate candidates using county committees to avoid donation limits.

READ MORE: Here's What We Know About the Probe Into Mayor Bill de Blasio's Fundraising

The coordinated effort to reroute funds emanated from de Blasio and City Hall and were "willful and flagrant" violations that warranted "criminal prosecution," Sugarman wrote in the memo which was leaked to the Daily News.

Wolfe, the mayor's director of intergovernmental affairs, Ross Offinger, his top fundraiser, and officials at BerlinRosen, the consulting firm credited with helping de Blasio win office, received subpoenas from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Manhattan District Attorney's office earlier this week, City Hall acknowledged.

De Blasio has not been subpoenaed, said his chief counsel Maya Wiley.

But de Blasio said what he and his aides did is a common practice that's been used by his predecessors to influence upstate elections.

"All of my predecessors, if you look down through the history in different ways, have supported their parties and their party structures. So there’s something going on here that goes beyond anything we’ve seen previously in the way such situations were treated," de Blasio said.

"And 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 added.

De Blasio has not explicitly said what motivations are behind the memo but Sugarman is appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo with whom the mayor has had an ongoing and sometimes nasty public feud.

The mayor said he "certainly asked people to support Democrats" but was "not involved in any of the specifics of the day-to-day in...different efforts."

The mayor is also facing a federal inquiry into the fundraising efforts of the Campaign for One New York, a nonprofit to advance the mayor's agenda that was not subject to campaign finance rules regarding disclosure and donation limits. Authorities want to know if donors received or were promised anything for their donations.

The Campaign for One New York advocated for progressive issues the mayor championed such as universal pre-K and the mayor's affordable housing proposal. Those efforts might have led to efforts to oppose him, de Blasio said.

"It is not a surprise, and we’ve seen it in many other cases — when a progressive tries to get something done, there’s lots of powerful interests that put money into trying to stop it," said the mayor.

A caller, Jeff from Brooklyn, said it seems like de Blasio's "big-picture progressive" vision was suffering "death by a thousand cuts between the fights with the Governor’s Office and these investigations."

The caller wanted to know what he had to look forward to during the remainder of the mayor's term and if he ran for re-election. De Blasio talked about his safety initiatives, affordable housing plan and efforts to address mental health and opioid abuse, among other plans

"Absolutely I’m running for reelection," de Blasio said. "And the noise being created elsewhere does not obscure the fact that the work is getting done."