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2 Grand Juries Probe Mayor's Fundraising, Report Says

By  Aidan Gardiner and Jeff Mays | December 16, 2016 7:52am 

 The separate grand juries are the latest moves in federal and state investigations into Bill de Blasio's campaign.
The separate grand juries are the latest moves in federal and state investigations into Bill de Blasio's campaign.
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MANHATTAN — Two grand juries have begun hearing testimony about whether Mayor Bill de Blasio's campaign fundraising efforts violated various election laws, according to a report in The New York Times.

The separate grand juries are the latest moves in two federal and state investigations into the mayor and his aides which were revealed in April, according to the Times, which first reported the legal proceedings Thursday night.

State investigators are trying to see if de Blasio or his aides violated election law by funneling thousands of dollars through local political committees to the Democratic party's failed bid to take control of State Senate.

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

Federal investigators also hope to find out if de Blasio or his team traded favors for donations to his 2013 mayoral bid or his political nonprofit.

De Blasio has not been charged with any wrongdoing and has maintained that he acted appropriately.

Asked about the grand jury on WNYC's Brian Lehrer show Friday, de Blasio again maintained that he had done nothing wrong.

"What we've said very clearly, we've cooperated from moment one. We've offered any and all information they needed and all  the cooperation in the world," said the mayor.

"The only thing we care about is getting to a resolution and I think the public would like to get to resolution as quickly as appropriate, but that's up to the folks doing the investigation," he added.

The Campaign for One New York and its predecessor UPKNYC, collected millions of dollars from individuals with business before the city, with some people donating hundreds of thousands of dollars.

►READ MORE: De Blasio Asked Me for $20K And it Was Hard to Say No, Developer Says

The donations were allowed because the mayor's political nonprofit was not governed by city campaign finance law. That changed Thursday when the City Council passed legislation to limit to $400 the amount of money that individuals or companies with business before the city could give to political nonprofits associated with elected officials.

De Blasio has said he will sign the law because the nonprofit has become a "distraction" but that he will be left vulnerable to attack without the ability to respond.

"We'll do this bill because it's necessary. But what it also means is that anyone who wants to attack a mayor or a city council with endless amounts of money, there's no counterbalance in the equation, and I think at some point people are going to realize that's a problem," said de Blasio.

READ MORE: City Council Passes Legislation to End Political Nonprofit 'Loophole'

The mayor has argued that he started the nonprofit to counter the political action committees run by the wealthy who were out to stop his implicitly good agenda of universal pre-K and affordable housing for the city. Efforts to win a Democratic state senate also would have aided his goal.

"What matters here is we did everything by the law for good causes. You know there's plenty of scandals in New York state about people trying to put money in their own pockets or doing things immoral," said de Blasio.

"The work we did  was  by the law, appropriate, above board to win pre-K, affordable housing,  a Democratic state senate, and those were the right things to work for. Everything disclosed. No, no influence given to anyone in exchange," he added.

Grand juries are secret proceedings, but the Times cited unnamed sources privy to the investigations. The mayor said earlier this week that he has not been called to testify before a grand jury but that he could not speak for anyone else.

One of de Blasio's top aides, Emma Wolfe, and the mayor's chief fundraiser, Ross Offinger, have both been issued subpoenas. 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.

READ MORE: Public Wants 'Answers' After Months of Fundraising Probes, Says De Blasio

"I don't expect timelines. That's up to the folks doing the investigations," de Blasio said when asked if he expected that he or his aides would be indicted soon. "What we've said very clearly, we've cooperated from moment one. We've offered any and all information they needed and all the cooperation in the world."