The possibility of criminal charges looms large over the de Blasio administration.
Two grand juries have been empaneled as part of Federal and State investigations into the campaign finance activities of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Other investigations remain open.
By LOUIS FLORES
The reported empaneling of two grand juries to assist prosecutors investigating the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) was described as "the strongest indication ... that prosecutors may be moving closer to one or more indictments, possibly against some of Mr. de Blasio’s closest aides."
That assessment was made in a report published on Thursday by The New York Times. The report noted that Emma Wolfe, one of Mayor de Blasio's top aides ; Ross Offinger, a fundraiser for Mayor de Blasio's various political committees ; and Josh Gold, a union official, who once headed the nonprofit lobbying arm of City Hall, were potential targets of the grand jury proceedings. Federal prosecutors are reportedly investigating the activities of Mayor de Blasio's former nonprofit lobbying arm, the Campaign for One New York, whilst State prosecutors are reportedly investigating the campaign finance activities spearheaded by Mayor de Blasio to flip the New York State Senate into Democratic Party control in 2014.
The press office of City Hall did not answer a request made by Progress Queens for an interview for this report. It has been noted that Mayor de Blasio has developed a hostile and retaliatory relationship with the press. Eric Phillips, Mayor de Blasio's chief spokesperson, took to Twitter after midnight one evening this week to attack the former Metropolitan columnist for The New York Times, Michael Powell, over criticism about Mayor de Blasio's hostility toward the press. Early on Friday, Mayor de Blasio denied any wrong-doing during an interview on a WNYC 93.9 FM radio talk show.
Almost every major City official has violated municipal campaign finance laws
This week, the municipal campaign finance regulatory authority, the New York City Campaign Finance Board, made determinations that campaign finance laws were violated during the 2013 municipal election cycle. Consequently, the Campaign Finance Board fined several campaign committees for the violations. The 2013 committee to elect Mayor de Blasio was fined $47,778 for 10 violations. The 2013 committee to elect Comptroller Scott Stringer (D-New York City) was fined $10,514 for eight violations. The 2013 committee to elect Borough President Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan) was fined $3,036 for six violations. Previously, the 2013 campaign committee that lobbied to select Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Harlem) as speaker of the New York City Council paid $10,796.44 in fines and reïmbursements to settle an investigation by the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board into a violation of a section of the City Charter that prohibits the acceptance by City officials of gifts from lobbyists.
No checks and balances
The work of prosecutors to investigate the administration of Mayor de Blasio is taking place against a backdrop of growing public outrage to political and campaign corruption scandals. Besides allegations of circumventing municipal campaign finance laws, the administration of Mayor de Blasio has also triggered multiple investigations into the sale of Rivington House, a former AIDS nursing home in the Lower East Side. The de Blasio administration also triggered controversy over resistance to improve City Government transparency. Zachary Carter, who acts as the City's top lawyer, reportedly frustrated efforts to investigate the sale of Rivington House by redacting documents of material information. Maya Wiley, former counsel to Mayor de Blasio, reportedly frustrated efforts to release public records in response to requests filed under the State's Freedom of Information Law by classifying some of Mayor de Blasio's political advisors as "agents of the city." Mayor de Blasio's refusal to submit to oversight was noted this week when, during the public meeting held by the Campaign Finance Board before approving the fines and penalities on Mayor de Blasio's 2013 committee to elect, Mayor de Blasio failed to send representatives to account for the campaign finance violations in the presence of the Board Members of the municipal campaign finance regulatory authority. Absent rigorous institutional checks and balances on the powers of the mayor, prosecutors are having to step in to investigate allegations of wrong-doing.
The investigation into the campaign finance activities of Mayor de Blasio represent one aspect of a reported wide-ranging, Federal corruption investigation of the Government of the City of New York. Other aspects of the wide-ranging investigation have already triggered the arrests of a Brooklyn businessman, who reportedly bribed New York Police Department officers to expedite the processing of gun permits, and NYPD officers, who were reportedly paid in diamonds and free sex services from a worker dressed up as a flight attendant on a private jet in exchange for providing official acts to politically-connected private citizens. The office of State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D-New York) is one amongst several agencies reportedly investigating the sale of Rivington House. Mayor de Blasio's former nonprofit lobbying arm has also been the target of an investigation by the New York State Joint Committee on Public Ethics. Prosecutors are also reportedly investigating the sale of a former hospital and a public library, both in Brooklyn. Various donors to Mayor de Blasio's campaign committees have reportedly received subpoenas, have been reportedly interviewed by investigators, or have been arrested by, and reportedly coöperating with, prosecutors.