Campaign Finance Board Will Slap NYCLASS With ‘Five-Figure’ Penalty Tomorrow

The CFB is set to hit NYCLASS, the powerful animal rights group, with fines related to two City Council campaigns last year.

A NYCLASS protest in April. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A NYCLASS protest in April. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The Campaign Finance Board is set to hammer NYCLASS with fines related to two City Council campaigns, but the powerful animal rights group is blaming their old consultant for the alleged wrongdoing.

Tomorrow, the CFB will hit NYCLASS, also known as New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, with penalties in the “low five-figure range,” according to a source with knowledge of the situation. NYCLASS, however, wants the Advance Group to reimburse them for the penalties; the CFB will cite NYCLASS for exceeding donation limits in its support of Mark Levine and Laurie Cumbo, City Council candidates who won their elections.

“NYCLASS is saddened that a consulting firm we trusted and paid to handle campaign compliance matters — The Advance Group (“TAG”) — engaged in actions that the Campaign Finance Board considers a violation of the law,” stated John Eddy, a spokesman for NYCLASS. “Indeed, NYCLASS is a victim here, having been unaware of TAG’s actions and having relied on TAG’s assurances that it acted in compliance with the law.”

Randy Mastro, a lawyer for NYCLASS, claimed the Campaign Finance Board acknowledged “that TAG is to blame for any violation here but believes current law does not allow it to go after the agent, only the principal.”

But a spokesman for the Advance Group, Frank Baraff, rejected the charge.

“NYCLASS leadership controlled every decision tactically, strategically and financially throughout the campaign. We did not participate in the final decision making process, and NYCLASS alone made all of the spending and endorsement choices,” Mr. Baraff said.

“For NYCLASS to suggest otherwise is completely self-serving, disingenuous and an attempt to deflect financial responsibility for decisions made by the organization’s leadership. We firmly disagree with the campaign finance board’s position relating to actions undertaken by NYCLASS, which have no basis in fact,” he added.

In April, the CFB hit Ms. Cumbo and Mr. Levine’s campaigns with $7,868 and $8,686 in fines respectively for accepting improper campaign contributions from NYCLASS. Both candidates were clients of the Advance Group.

NYCLASS dropped the Advance Group as their consultant in May after the Daily News reported that the firm was facing a federal investigation into whether they inappropriately coordinated with Bill de Blasio’s successful campaign for mayor. The Advance Group spearheaded NYCLASS’ independent expenditure against Christine Quinn after Ms. Quinn, then the council speaker, refused to move forward on a horse carriage ban.

Now Mr. de Blasio is in full support of a ban of the horse carriage industry, a top priority for NYCLASS. Legislation to take the carriages off the streets was introduced in the City Council this week.

A spokesman for the CFB confirmed NYCLASS is on the agenda of their meeting tomorrow but declined to comment further.

Will Bredderman contributed reporting

Campaign Finance Board Will Slap NYCLASS With ‘Five-Figure’ Penalty Tomorrow