As part of a continuing investigation into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s now-defunct political nonprofit, a state ethics panel has served City Hall with a broad subpoena for communications linked to the organization, including correspondence between donors, aides, private consultants, and the mayor.
According to a report in the Times, the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics is looking at whether the Campaign for One New York failed to re-register as a lobbying entity in 2015 and operated without disclosing donations from people with “business before the city,” like unions and corporations.
Since 2014, the Campaign for One New York — run by the mayor’s allies to push his political agenda and policies, such as universal pre-K and plans for affordable housing — generated over $4 million. It disbanded in March after good-government groups filed a complaint citing the fact that the group had accepted large donations as a conflict of interest. This past summer, the Campaign Finance Board did not find any violation of campaign finance laws for the group, but concluded that it would closely examine last year’s expenditures.
Twice previously, the organization didn’t comply with subpoenas from the state ethics panel. Laurence Laufer, an attorney for Campaign for One New York, accused the agency of a “blatant political exercise” in their attempt to gather information related to lobbying for Mayor de Blasio, and nothing more than political retribution from Governor Andrew Cuomo. A judge didn’t buy that argument.
The new subpoena for documents on Wednesday stems from a September 14 ruling against de Blasio, who contended the information should not be released because it was privileged.
In response to the ethics panel investigation, Laufer told the Times the continuing “year-and-a-half-long political fishing expedition” was no surprise, and that the state ethics panel “invented yet another frivolous legal theory to justify its existence.”
Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, a civics group, tells the Voice that the JCOPE ethics investigation “doesn’t look good for the mayor,” especially after he ran on a platform of greater transparency.
“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” Dadey says. “And there’s a fair amount of smoke coming out of City Hall.”