By LOUIS FLORES
The Federal corruption investigation into the New York Police Department is reportedly expanding to include an examination of the campaign finance activities of Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City).
News about the investigation's expansion was first made public in a report broadcast by journalist Marcia Kramer for WCBS Channel 2 news.
A request made by Progress Queens to Dan Levitan, the spokesperson of Mayor de Blasio's campaign committee, was not immediately answered.
The corruption investigation into the NYPD is being led on the Federal level by prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's southern district and by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Federal law enforcement officials are reportedly questioning individuals in the real estate industry about how Mayor de Blasio's campaign committee raises its funds, according to WCB2 report.
For years, the U.S. Attorney's Office has been investigating the role of real estate developers in shaping government policy. The most notable example of that was information made public about the activities of Glenwood Management Corporation in the Federal corruption trials of former Assemblymember Sheldon Silver (D-Lower East Side) and former State Senator Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre). The focus on the role of real estate campaign contributions was also the subject of interest by the now-defunct Moreland Commission, before it was disbanded.
Approximately 20 NYPD officers have been reportedly questioned in connection with the NYPD investigation, and that investigation has been reported to be related to two businessmen, who have have ties to Mayor de Blasio. One of the businessmen, Jona Rechnitz, and his wife, made the maximum allowed contributions to Mayor de Blasio's 2013 campaign committee, New Yorkers for de Blasio, according to online records of the New York City Campaign Finance Board. The other businessman, Jeremy Reichberg, hosted a funderaiser for Mayor de Blasio's nonprofit lobbying arm that raised $35,000, according to the WCBS report.
Federal investigation joins municipal investigations of the Campaign for One New York
The Federal investigation into Mayor de Blasio's campaign finance activities joins investigations reportedly launched by the Campaign Finance Board and the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board after the government watchdog group, Common Cause/NY, lodged a complaint against Mayor de Blasio's nonprofit lobbying arm, the Campaign for One New York. The complaint alleged that Mayor de Blasio violated the law under the City Charter.
In February, Progress Queens reported that there was law enforcement interest in the campaign finance activities of the Campaign for One New York. After Progress Queens reported that firewalls would likely be a one subject of the investigation into the Campaign for One New York, Mayor de Blasio ordered the winding down of his nonprofit lobbying arm.
One focus of the Federal investigation into the de Blasio campaign committee's activities is reportedly focused on Ross Offinger, the former finance chair for Mayor de Blasio's campaign committee, according to the WCBS report.
Mr. Offinger has, in the past, also served as the finance director of the campaign committee of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York).
Reliance on real estate donations, including from developers with business before the city
As reported by many news reports, including by Progress Queens, Mayor de Blasio has heavily relied on campaign contributions from the real estate industry. One of Mayor de Blasio's rivals in the 2013 race in the Democratic Party primary election, former Councilmember Sal Albanese (D-Bay Ridge), had issued a public challenge that all mayoral candidates should return campaign contributions from real estate developers that had been, at that time then, under subpoena by the now-shuttered Moreland Commission. However, none of the candidates answered the challenge.
Mayor de Blasio's reliance on real estate contributions also includes receiving and keeping campaign contributions from individuals affiliated with Extell Development Company, the real estate developer that created a controversial "poor door" building.
From City Hall, Mayor de Blasio has continually accepted campaign contributions from real estate developers, including from those with business before the city. As noted by Progress Queens, Mayor de Blasio accepted $100,000 from a limited liability company subsidiary of Two Trees Management, after the de Blasio administration approved a large scale redevelopment of the old Domino Sugar factory in Brooklyn.
Besides being reliant on real estate developers for campaign contributions, Mayor de Blasio has also relied on the campaign contributions and the bundling of campaign contributions from real estate lobbyists. One such lobbyist, James Capalino has been dragged into controversy over his role in the controversial luxury condominium conversion of the former AIDS nursing home facility formerly at Rivington House.