How much longer can the mayor and his army of lobbyists violate the spirit of campaign finance laws, before they trigger possible corruption investigations ?
Funneling campaign-like donations to Mayor de Blasio's political arm through shady limited liability corporations
JUST ONE WEEK AFTER Mayor Bill de Blasio's controversial 501(c)(4) charity group, the Campaign for One New York, published its list of donations and expenditures, drawing heavy media scrutiny and criticism from good government groups, The New York Post reported that firms with ties to unions seeking favorable school bus union contracts made stealth contributions to the mayor's shady nonprofit group partly through the use of cloaking corporations or relatives of principal owners of bus companies.
One bus company with $90 million in contracts, Careful Bus Co., made contributions to the mayor's political charity of almost $10,000 through a number of pass-through entities, including 88th Street Self Storage Inc. and First Investors Equipment Leasing Corp., according to The New York Post. Another donation made to the mayor's charity came from a bus company with approximately $110 million in contracts, L&M Bus, and L&M Bus made its contribution of $15,000 through a limited liability company acting as a pass-through entity, Stable Realty LLC. The LLC shares the same Brooklyn address as L&M Bus. Other contributions from bus company-related entities were made by the brothers Chris and Joseph Termini, who made contributions of $10,000 without disclosing their ownership interests in two transportation firms they own. Another contribution to the mayor's charity was made from Richard Caparella, who is the brother-in-law of Careful Bus co-owner Marty Hoffman.
Government reform activists are only now beginning to see how arrogant the de Blasio administration is when it comes to flouting the spirit of campaign finance laws. Last week, when the press began to scrutinize the finances of the Campaign for One New York, many good government groups denounced the mayor's dependence on big money contributions to his political nonprofit group. “It makes it seem as if public policy and the people’s business is up for sale to the largest bidder,” Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause New York, told The New York Times.
Mayor de Blasio's reliance on funneling campaign-like donations from big money interests through limited liability corporations is reminiscent of the same loophole used by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a program that has come under further scrutiny by the press for allowing structuring campaign contributions in a way to violate campaign finance regulations and on contribution limits. Already, a political operative with close ties to the mayor, Scott Levenson, is reportedly under investigation for allegedly coordinating political activities between official campaigns he managed with the political activities of political action committees, which is a violation of campaign finance laws. The pattern of political activities surrounding the mayor have also drawn further criticisms.
A new Sienna College poll published this week shows that nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers believe that state politicians are corrupt. So far nobody has looked into how voters perceive municipally-elected officials, although we may have some insight from one of the elected officials' peers. When Public Advocate Letitia James was campaigning for Rep. Charles Rangel in June, Ms. James reminded a crowd at Memorial Baptist Church in Harlem of her leadership experience and her position in the line of succession to the Iron Throne at City Hall. “If anything should happen to Mayor Bill de Blasio,” she said, “you are looking at the next mayor of the City of New York.”