By RYAN WICKER
Columnist Phil Reisman called New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio a “bogeyman” in 2014 New York State Senate races, and now the specter of de Blasio is once again haunting candidacies of local Democrats in the 2016 campaign season thanks to the looming campaign finance scandal centered in Putnam County. The ongoing criminal inquiry by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, the Manhattan DA and others, was the result of complaints initially raised by State Senator Terrence Murphy.
Putnam County Republican Committee Chairman Anthony Scannapieco Jr., who filed the original complaint, said, “As questions continue to mount in this growing scandal, it has become clear that all of the Democratic candidates in the 40th Senate District are in some way tainted by it. It remains to be seen if any of them will be able to remain in the race now that their affiliation and participation with Team de Blasio’s ongoing efforts is out in the open.”
Earlier this week, Mayor de Blasio’s campaign attorney issued a statement which called the investigation politically motivated, although it did not deny the allegations levied by the independent enforcement counsel at the state board of elections which called the violations “willful and flagrant” and referred them for “criminal prosecution.” On Wednesday, a memo from 2014 was leaked which showed that same attorney had helped plan the original scheme to run an end around the lawful contribution limits and “detailed how the coordinated campaign would be structured and run,” according to Politico.
In order to evade the lawful contribution limit and disguise the true name of the contributor, state investigators allege that “Team de Blasio” had donors contribute to sleepy county committees, which then transferred the money to candidates in excess of the lawful limit, in effect acting as straw donors, which is a felony under New York State Election Law. The donors themselves were individuals seeking to do business in New York City, and this “pay-to-play” style shakedown made one feel “uncomfortable,” according to the Daily News.
The Putnam County Democratic Committee (PCDC), at the forefront of the scandal, has also lawyered up, retaining white collar criminal defense firm Sher Tremonte LLP, who issued a statement claiming that “there was no intent to evade individual campaign finance limits,” while not denying that the limits were in fact evaded.
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