NYC's De Blasio Declares Himself Innocent of Ethics Violations

(Bloomberg) -- After federal and state prosecutors began investigating his fundraising practices more than a year ago, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio promised the public he’d disclose “a stunning number of donors” who sought favors from City Hall and didn’t get them.

On Friday, de Blasio said he made good on that vow with an op-ed piece in Medium, an online publishing platform. Yet he cited only four unnamed donors who gave unspecified amounts of money. They didn’t get everything they wanted from City Hall, he wrote, and the media reported his campaign fundraising with “undeserved cynicism.”

At least one New York good-government group was unimpressed. “This is not the list of donors seeking attention that the mayor promised to produce to show without question that no favoritism was shown to donors,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of the Citizens Union. “By not doing what he said he was going to do, he invites even more questioning.” 

The mayor, who’s in the midst of a barely contested reelection campaign, survived those investigations along with scrutiny of his fundraising activities by the state Board of Elections, with no criminal or civil charges against him. Even as it cleared him, though, the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office said it had found a pattern in which de Blasio and his associates repeatedly sought donations from donors with business before the city, and contacted city agencies on their behalf.

As someone who “came of age politically during the Watergate years” and “was glued to those televised hearings as I watched the most powerful men in the nation exposed and the crimes they committed laid bare,” de Blasio said he and his appointees "hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards.”

While he didn’t identify any donors by name, the circumstances he described in the essay fit what previously came to light in a court-ordered release of emails. In that case, de Blasio had responded, “I’m all ears, Jona” when fundraising bundler and developer Jona Rechnitz offered to recommend a friend as a candidate for commissioner of the city’s Buildings Department. Rechnitz later pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge in an unrelated law-enforcement corruption case.

The mayor wrote that he acted appropriately because the developer’s candidate for commissioner didn’t get appointed, and the developer failed to sell a property he wanted to unload on the city.

“Unfortunately, two individuals, whom we now know to be involved with a police corruption case that originated in the prior administration, also requested lots from me and their city government,” the mayor wrote. “One wanted us to buy a vacant lot of his for future use as a police precinct. We passed on the property.”