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De Blasio's Nonprofit Ordered By Judge to Comply With State Subpoena

By Jeff Mays | September 12, 2016 6:25pm
 Mayor Bill de Blasio's under-investigation political nonprofit must comply with a subpoena to turn over records to the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, a state judge has ruled.
Mayor Bill de Blasio's under-investigation political nonprofit must comply with a subpoena to turn over records to the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, a state judge has ruled.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

NEW YORK CITY — Mayor Bill de Blasio's political nonprofit must comply with a subpoena to turn over records to the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, a state judge has ruled.

The Campaign for One New York had previously complied with subpoenas from JCOPE as part of the group's 2015 investigation into whether they should have registered as a lobbyist.

But in May, De Blasio lawyer Laurence Laufer said JCOPE's investigation had become a politically motivated "unprecedented fishing expedition" and that the group would no longer comply, even as it continued to cooperate with investigations by the U.S. Attorney and Manhattan District Attorney's office, which were "both politically independent investigative bodies."

JCOPE, saying it had full authority to make the Campaign for One New York comply with the subpoena, went to court to get the documents, which included communications between the Campaign for One New York and the mayor's office that the mayor's lawyers said were protected by attorney-client privilege and proprietary trade secrets.

In her ruling, Acting State Supreme Court Justice Denise Hartman said JCOPE had "established the requisite foundation for issuing" subpoenas from 2015 and 2016 and that the Campaign for One New York "has not established that any of the documents it has withheld are privileged."

Four documents that the Campaign for One new York argue are covered by attorney-client privilege must be turned over to the court for review.

“We are pleased with the decision reaffirming JCOPE’s authority to enforce the state’s lobbying laws," JCOPE Chair Daniel J. Horwitz said in a statement. "The Commission and staff will continue to robustly enforce the law.”

De Blasio said he was considering appealing the ruling.

"We disagree with the judge's final judgment," de Blasio said Monday at an unrelated press conference.

State and federal authorities are investigating whether donors to the Campaign for One New York received anything in return for their donations. Top de Blasio aide Emma Wolfe and the mayor's chief fundraiser, Ross Offinger, have both been issued subpoenas. The mayor has denied any wrongdoing.

BerlinRosen, the consulting firm credited with de Blasio's victory and owned by one of the mayor's closest advisers, Jonathan Rosen, has also been subpoenaed.

Rosen is also one of five people that de Blasio has dubbed an "agent of the city." De Blasio has refused to release communications between himself and these so-called "agents of the city," four of whom helped run the mayor's campaign and also received millions of dollars in fees from the Campaign for One New York. NY1 and the New York Post have sued to get the communications between the mayor and his "agents of the city."

Good government groups asked for an investigation of the mayor's nonprofit because it is outside of city campaign finance giving and disclosure limits. Companies, many with business before the city, have given money to the nonprofit, which the mayor shuttered soon after the investigations began.

The group also disclosed its donations and expenditures upon request from the media and not to the general public. DNAinfo New York reported that the Campaign for One New York had not been disclosing all of its donations

A $20,000 donation from developer Don Peebles that was returned upon his request was not disclosed by the group. Peebles was bidding on the Long Island College Hospital project in Cobble Hill at the time the mayor called and personally asked him for the donation.

The U.S. Attorney is investigating de Blasio's role in the sale of LICH and federal authorities have issued subpoenas for emails from de Blasio and his top aides to see if any laws were broken.

In July, the Campaign Finance Board called on the City Council to pass legislation to impose greater regulation over nonprofit's such as the mayor's.

Laufer, in a statement, called on JCOPE to end what he called a "politicized" investigation because of leaks to the media.

"We have already provided a mountain of evidence showing that we didn't lobby while JCOPE has provided no evidence showing that we did. Furthermore, we continue to believe JCOPE has not conducted this investigation in good faith, as evidenced by its failure to maintain confidentiality at the outset," said Laufer.