CITY HALL — Mayor Bill de Blasio said it makes sense that a nonprofit he founded should stop cooperating with a probe by the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics because it has stepped beyond its "jurisdiction and its purview."
During de Blasio's first press availability in a week where he's taken questions from the City Hall press corps, the mayor continually said that he has followed all laws in regards to the multiple investigations surrounding his fundraising activities.
But when pressed to answer specific questions about calling individuals with business before the city to donate to his non-profit, or to explain his understanding of what it means for a company or individual to have business before the city, de Blasio was obtuse and refused to "go into the mechanics" of any particular issue.
Still, he criticized the state's commission, known as JCOPE.
"Here's a case where JCOPE seems to be way beyond its jurisdiction and its purview and its whole reason for existence, and seems to be applying different standards only to one entity in the entire state, which is the Campaign for One New York," the mayor said.
The mayor has hired an attorney to represent him and the city has also hired two white shoe law firms at taxpayer expense to help the city deal with the investigations.
Last week, Laurence Laufer, an attorney for the Campaign for One New York, sent a 12 page letter to JCOPE saying that the nonprofit wasn't going to comply with a subpoena that he felt was part of an "unprecedented fishing expedition" and a "blatantly political exercise."
According to Laufer, JCOPE is investigating whether the Campaign for One New York was required to register as a lobbyist in 2015 as it did in 2014 when the group was known as UPKNYC and focused on lobbying activities to bring universal pre-K to New York City.
But in 2015, the Campaign for One New York decided not to register as a lobbyist because the group was mainly focused on launching The Progressive Agenda, de Blasio's national effort to bring the issue of income inequality to the forefront of the country's political debate.
A planned Iowa presidential forum on the topic was canceled when no candidates would commit to attending.
Laufer said the leak of a memo to the press regarding the investigation and the timing of a former JCOPE executive director transitioning to a senior role in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office, along with selective enforcement that purposely seemed to avoid the governor, are proof that the investigation is biased.
"When an entity goes beyond it's legal purview, possibly for the wrong motivations, there's a point in which you say enough is enough," de Blasio said.
"So we simply drew a line and said on the legitimate purview we have and will cooperate but on matters that are not part of the purview legally, that's a different matter entirely," the mayor added.
JCOPE filed papers Monday in Albany County Supreme Court to force the Campaign for One New York to respond to its subpoena.
JCOPE executive director Seth Agata, said the matter doesn't really concern the mayor.
"The mayor is confused. He is not party to this proceeding. This is an issue involving the Campaign for One New York," Agata said. "Part of the problem is there is confusion between the mayor, who is an elected official, and the corporation."
In addition to a federal investigation into whether Campaign for One New York donors, many of whom had business before the city, received favors for their donation, authorities are also examining whether de Blasio's unsuccessful bid to bring the state Senate under Democratic control in 2014 violated campaign finance and election laws.
Federal authorities are also scrutinizing de Blasio's 2013 campaign for possible straw donors.
The mayor, who has said he will run for re-election in 2017, said he's confident New Yorkers will believe that he has followed the law and judge him on his accomplishments.
Earlier, as the mayor held multiple bill signings inside City Hall, two potential rivals, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., held a press conference on its steps, where they criticized the mayor for under funding the summer youth jobs program and said it was too early to decide whether to support de Blasio's re-election bid.
Much like the JCOPE investigation, de Blasio brushed off the potential challengers.
"We're here doing the people's business," the mayor said. "If folks want to run for this great office, bring it on. We are very, very confident of the work we are doing, what we have done for everyday New Yorkers and what kind of impact it's gonna make."