Mayor de Blasio and his top aides coordinated an illegal fundraising scheme to help elect Democrats to the state Senate in 2014, the top investigator at the state Board of Elections accuses in a blockbuster memo that recommends the DA investigate City Hall.
In the damning eight-page report, delivered to the elections board on Jan.4, enforcement chief Risa Sugarman said the actions of the mayor, his political team and his state democratic allies led to “willful and flagrant violations” of state law.
“I have determined that reasonable cause exists to believe a violation warranting criminal prosecution has taken place,” Sugarman wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Post.
The four commissioners two Democrats and two Republicans first received the complaint about the mayor’s fundraising efforts in October 2014 and voted unanimously on Jan. 11 to make a criminal referral to the Manhattan DA’s office.
“There is considerable evidence in this case that New York City mayor William de Blasio organized a team dedicated to getting a sufficient number of Democratic New York State senators elected in 2014 to achieve a Democratic majority in the senate.
The evidence indicates that de Blasio established a structure, both within and outside City Hall, and entered into an agreement with powerful unions… and political consultants… to raise and spend money to influence senate races,” wrote Sugarman, who was nominated to the post by Gov. Cuomo.
“The evidence demonstrates that the de Blasio team coordinated its fundraising activities with and intentionally solicited contributions for these candidates … in order to evade contribution limits and to disguise the true names of the contributors, conduct which may violate [two election laws],” she wrote.
One of those alleged violations is a felony.
The memo targets de Blasio, his legislative director Emma Wolfe; Ross Offinger, de Blasio’s campaign finance director and treasurer of his political advocacy roup Campaign for One; former Hotel and Trade union official Josh Gold; Jason Goldman of the UFT; and political consultants Neal Kwatra, BerlinRose, AKPD Message Media and Hilltop Public Solutions.
It calls them “Team de Blasio,” and says the nearly $1 million they solicited from big unions and fat-cat donors were steered to the Putnam County and the Ulster County Democratic committees, and then redirected to three candidates: Justin Wagner, Terry Gipson and Cecilia Tkaczyk.
New York’s campaign finance law bars donations of more than $10,300 to a senatorial candidate. But contributors can donate as much as $103,000 to county committees which can then transfer unlimited amounts to individual candidates.
“Based on the evidence that these transfers were pre-arranged, reasonable cause exists to believe that all the contributions were made to the county committees simply as straw donors. Therefore, they should be considered contributions to the candidates and subjected to the candidate’s contribution limits,” the memo charges.
She then cites provisions of the election law that say it’s a Class E Felony to “knowingly and willfully” solicit and or coordinate donations “for the purpose of evading contribution limits.” Other suspected violations of election law were misdemeanors.
Many of the checks were deposited through Offinger, and some with notations such as “donation per mayor,” the memo cites.
Political analysts said the fundraising probe spells trouble for de Blasio, who is up for re-election in 2017.
“If there are any charges leveled against the mayor or anyone close to him, it’s very serious,” said campaign consultant Jerry Skurnik.
De Blasio defended his actions.
“We are confident that all of our efforts were appropriate and in accordance with the law at all times. We will cooperate fully with the investigations,” said City Hall spokeswoman Karen Hinton.