The Real Deal New York

De Blasio won’t face federal, state charges in fundraising probe

News comes just days after Preet Bharara was fired

Mayor Bill de Blasio (Credit: Getty Images)

Mayor Bill de Blasio won’t be facing federal or state criminal charges for fundraising activities tied to his now defunct Campaign for One New York, officials announced on Thursday.

Joon H. Kim

“After careful deliberation, given the totality of the circumstances here and absent additional evidence, we do not intend to bring federal criminal charges against the Mayor or those acting on his behalf relating to the fundraising efforts in question,” acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim announced on Thursday.

The investigations hinged on whether de Blasio solicited donations from developers and others who had business before the city in exchange for political favors. In October, the New York Time’s reported that Jona Rechnitz, the real estate developer at the center of the NYPD corruption scandal, was cooperating with authorities. The mayor was accused of giving a retired police official a high-level position in his administration after Rechnitz called him and requested the appointment as a “personal favor.”

The federal investigation was conducted by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office led the state probe.

In his announcement, District Attorney Cyrus Vance stated that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that the mayor violated state election laws in his efforts to help Democrats take over the Republican-controlled state Senate. The investigation focused on whether he wrongfully sidestepped contribution limits to individual candidates by directing donations to upstate county committees. Vance said, however, that the decision against pursuing charges wasn’t an “endorsement” of the actions, which he said, “appear contrary to the intent and spirit of the laws that impose candidate contribution limits.” He also noted that the decision didn’t preclude the state Board of Elections from taking civil action.

Kim noted the unusual nature of announcing that his office wouldn’t pursue criminal charges, saying that, in this case, it was appropriate to not “unduly influence the upcoming campaign and Mayoral election.” The announcement comes just a few days after President Donald Trump fired Preet Bharara from his post as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

The decision not to prosecute clears what was a black cloud over the mayor’s re-election campaign. It remains to be seen if potential Democratic challengers who were waiting on the sidelines as the investigation dragged on will now step aside. Meanwhile, Republican mayoral candidate and Cushman & Wakefield executive Paul Massey announced Wednesday that he raised twice as much as de Blasio since Jan. 12.

“We did everything within the law, everything in clear ethical standards,” the mayor told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Thursday morning.