Federal complaint filed over 2017 City Council speaker race finance questions

Federal complaint is released prior to Election Day to prevent disenfranchisement of voters

By LOUIS FLORES

Because Election Day is four (4) days away, on Tuesday, 07 November, Progress Queens is publicly releasing a civilian crime report filed by the publisher of Progress Queens with the U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's southern district.

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The complaint outlined how the eight (8) candidates for New York City Council speaker have been making donations to other Councilmembers out of their committees to reëlect to win support for the speakership campaign ; have been having meetings, including with U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Queens) ; and have been preparing for debates or holding debates before the November general election. The Council speaker candidates are :  Councilmembers Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. (D-Brooklyn), Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan), Mark Levine (D-Manhattan), Donovan Richards (D-Queens), Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan), Ritchie Torres (D-The Bronx), Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Queens), and Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn).

These speakership campaign activities have been taking place in the apparent absence of dedicated campaign committees for the speakership race. Four years ago, the Municipal campaign finance regulatory authority reportedly provided advice to Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Spanish Harlem) that using a committee to reëlect for the speakership race was prohibited, forcing her to form a separate, dedicated campaign committee for the speakership race.

A review of information about campaign committees tracked online by the New York State Board of Elections did not identify which campaign committees were designated for the speakership race. For this report, attempts were made to reach the Council speaker candidates, or their representatives, but no response was received to a request made late Thursday evening. The Federal complaint alleges that Council speaker candidates, who do not presently have a dedicated campaign committee for the speakership race, are violating campaign finance laws, because the absence of a dedicated Council speakership race campaign committees implies that campaign consultants are working for free, a violation of law.

A "review" has been promised, but it is not trusted

The complaint includes an e-mail exchange between Progress Queens and an official of the New York City Campaign Finance Board, in which the official, Matthew Sollars, said the Municipal campaign finance regulatory authority would review the information submitted by Progress Queens, writing that, "CFB staff will review the material you have sent to us. " The complaint was filed by the publisher of Progress Queens with the U.S. Attorney's Office to ensure that the issues were fully investigated, according to the e-mail exchange. The publisher of Progress Queens expressed concern that the Campaign Finance Board would not timely intervene to prevent corruption from swaying the speakership race.

A similar complaint was filed by the publisher of Progress Queens approximately four years ago, also in his personal capacity as a civic activist, alleging campaign finance violations in Councilmember Mark-Viverito's speakership race. In 2016, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito and her campaign consulting firm, The Advance Group, settled a New York City Conflicts of Interest Board investigation into her 2013 speakership race by agreeing to pay fines after admitting violations of prohibitions against accepting free campaign consulting services, according to a report published at that time then by The New York Times.

The current Federal complaint was filed by the publisher of Progress Queens in his personal capacity as a civic activist. The publisher for Progress Queens is providing consulting services to the campaign of a November general election challenger to Councilmember Johnson for his seat in City Council District 3.

In the past, Federal authorities have retroäctively acknowledged at least once conducting an investigation of a political candidate during election cycles, but depriving the public of important information about the existence of such an investigation, thus, undermining voters' franchise rights. For example, as reported by Progress Queens, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New York’s southern district, formerly headed by then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, had been criticized by Richard Barr over having disenfranchised voters in connection with past corruption probes, in particular, by allowing voters in The Bronx to continue to blindly elect former Assemblymember Nelson Castro (D-The Bronx) to office, even though then Assemblymember Castro had been under investigation and was, consequently, secretly coöperating with Federal prosecutors in connection with a bribery probe of Albany officials.

A review of existing, registered campaign committees for the Council speaker candidates.

According to a search performed by Progress Queens of information made available online by the New York State Board of Elections, the Council speaker candidates have several campaign committees registered with the State campaign finance regulatory authority. However, it was not clear which, if any, of the committees were solely designated for the purpose of the speakership campaign. Under the name of each Council speaker candidate, the committee stylised in bold is the current committee to reëlect.

Councilmember Robert E. Cornegy, Jr.

  • COMMITTEE TO ELECT ROBERT E. CORNEGY ; Jurisdiction : N/A (Active, but no activity since 2015 ; apparently missed 2017 filing requirements)
  • CORNEGY 2017 ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Inactive)
  • FRIENDS OF ROBERT E. CORNEGY JR 2013 ; Jurisdiction : Member of Assembly (Inactive)
  • FRIENDS OF ROBERT E. CORNEGY JR. (FRIENDS OF REC JR) ; Jurisdiction : District Leader (Active)    
  • ROBERT CORNEGY 2017 ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Active)
  • ROBERT E. CORNEGY JR ; Jurisdiction : District Leader (Active, but no itemized disclosure data)
  • ROBERT E. CORNEGY JR ; Jurisdiction : N/A (Active, but no itemized disclosure data)
  • ROBERT E. CORNEGY JR. ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Active, but no itemized disclosure data)
  • ROBERT E. CORNEGY JR. ; Jurisdiction : Member of Assembly (Inactive)

Councilmember Corey Johnson

  • COREY 2017 ; Jurisdiction : N/A (Active)
  • COREY FOR COUNCIL ; Jurisdiction : N/A (Inactive)
  • COREY JOHNSON ; Jurisdiction : N/A (Active, but no itemized disclosure data)

Councilmember Mark Levine

  • COMMITTEE FOR MARK LEVINE ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Inactive)
  • LEVINE 2007 ; Jurisdiction : District Leader (Inactive)
  • LEVINE 2013 ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Active)
  • LEVINE FOR NEW YORK ; Jurisdiction : N/A (Active)
  • MARK D. LEVINE ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Active, but no itemized disclosure data)
  • MARK LEVINE ; Jurisdiction : District Leader (Inactive)
  • MARK LEVINE ; Jurisdiction : N/A (Active, but no itemized disclosure data)
  • MARK LEVINE ; Jurisdiction : State Senator (Inactive)
  • MARK LEVINE 2017 ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Active)
  • NEW YORKERS FOR MARK LEVINE ; Jurisdiction : State Senator (Inactive)

Councilmember Donovan Richards

  • DONOVAN RICHARDS ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Active, but no itemized disclosure data)
  • DONOVAN JOHN RICHARDS JR ; Jurisdiction : Member of Assembly (Inactive)
  • FRIENDS OF DONOVAN J. RICHARDS JR ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Inactive)
  • FRIENDS OF DONOVAN J. RICHARDS JR 2008 ; Jurisdiction : Member of Assembly (Active, but no activity since 2015)
  • FRIENDS OF DONOVAN RICHARDS 2013 ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Active, but no activity since 2015)
  • RE-ELECT DONOVAN RICHARDS 2013 ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Active, but no activity since July 2015)
  • RICHARDS 2017 ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Active)

Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez

  • FRIENDS OF YDANIS ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Inactive)
  • PEOPLE FOR YDANIS ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Inactive)
  • YDANIS ANTONIO RODRIGUEZ ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Inactive)
  • YDANIS FOR NEW YORK ; Jurisdiction : N/A (Active)
  • YDANIS RODRIGUEZ ; Jurisdiction : N/A (Active, but no itemized disclosure data)

Councilmember Ritchie Torres

  • FRIENDS OF RITCHIE TORRES ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Active)
  • FRIENDS OF TORRES (FORT 2013 = FRIENDS OF RITCHIE TORRES 2013) ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Active, but no activity in 2017)
  • RITCHIE TORRES ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Active, but no itemized disclosure data)

Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer

  • FRIENDS FOR JIMMY VAN BRAMER ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Inactive)
  • FRIENDS OF JIMMY VAN BRAMER ; Jurisdiction : State Committee (Inactive)
  • FRIENDS OF JIMMY VAN BRAMER ; Jurisdiction : State Committee (Active, but no activity since 2015 ; apparently missed July 2017 filing requirement)
  • JAMES G. VAN BRAMER ; Jurisdiction : State Committee (Active, but no itemized disclosure data)
  • JAMES G. VAN BRAMER ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Active, but no itemized disclosure data)
  • VAN BRAMER 2013 ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Active, but no activity since July 2015)
  •  VAN BRAMER 2017 ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Active)

Councilmember Jumaane D. Williams

  • JUMAANE 2013 ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Active, but no activity in 2017)
  • JUMAANE 2017 ; Jurisdiction : N/A (Active)
  • JUMAANE D. WILLIAMS ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Active, but no itemized disclosure data)
  • JUMAANE D. WILLIAMS ; Jurisdiction : N/A (Active, but no itemized disclosure data)
  • JUMAANE WILLIAMS FOR THE 45TH ; Jurisdiction : City Council (Active, but no activity in 2017)

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