A huffy Mayor Bill de Blasio pleaded innocence and ignorance when reporters pressed him today about widening investigations into his fundraising and defunct political nonprofits—and he pointed to Hillary Clinton as a shining example of a politician subjected inquiries that came to naught.
De Blasio clashed with the press repeatedly after an unrelated event this afternoon, one day after the New York Times reported that in September the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics had issued a broad subpoena seeking communications between his administration, his shuttered Campaign for One New York nonprofit and consulting firms that serviced both. The mayor created the Campaign for One New York to raise money to lobby for and advance his agenda, and shut it down earlier this year after claiming it had achieved its mission—and after good government groups had labeled it a “shadow government” and a spate of probes had begun into possible “pay-to-play” arrangements involving contributors who got favorable treatment from the city.
He simultaneously refused to answer questions precisely, insisted he had done nothing wrong and asserted that Clinton had survived similarly baseless accusations of corruption.
“The next president of the United States has gone through more investigations than I can count—I had the honor of working for her once upon a time,” he said, referring to his stint managing her 2000 Senate campaign. “And I would remind you, go to the end of the road on all those investigations, you will find positively nothing, and she’s about to be the next president of the United States.”
According to the Times, JCOPE issued the subpoena just days after a judge struck down de Blasio’s claims that the organization—chartered to pry into dodgy lobbying—did not have the power to investigate him. De Blasio continued to maintain today that the organization was “on a fishing expedition” and acting beyond its proscribed powers.
He said he believed the Campaign for One New York was cooperating with the investigation now, but repeatedly denied knowing if his own administration was doing the same. He lashed out bitterly when reporters pressed the issue.
“You can try again, but I think it’s going to be the same answer,” he told one journalist. “You know, you can throw your hands up it the air but if I don’t have the answer, I don’t have the answer. Why is that strange to you, may I ask?”
When a reporter asked about a long-promised list of donors to the Campaign for One New York who did not receive favors from City Hall, de Blasio told him to “ask a real question.” And he repeatedly ignored New York Post’s Yoav Gonen as he raised his hand and yelled out his questions, saying, “I’m calling on real media outlets.”
Earlier today, in his weekly ‘Ask the Mayor’ Segment on WNYC, the mayor had continued to allude darkly to JCOPE’s political “motivations.” The governor, the State Senate Majority Leader and the Assembly Speaker appoint the supposedly independent board’s members. Given de Blasio’s feuds with fellow Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose former aide Seth Agata heads the commission, and the Republican State Senate leadership, forces hostile to the mayor do in fact control JCOPE.
The same cannot be said of state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman—a longtime de Blasio ally—or of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara or of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, three Democrats who have worked with the administration in the past and who are now probing the mayor’s relationships with contributors. These span his ties to the anti-horse carriage group New Yorkers for Clean Livable and Safe Streets, his 2014 efforts to funnel money to unsuccessful upstate candidates for the State Senate and a sprawling bribery scandal involving two Campaign for One New York donors who regaled top NYPD officials with gifts, trips and even prostitutes.
On WNYC, de Blasio argued to host Brian Lehrer that such scrutiny is completely normal, and maintained they will ultimately absolve him of wrongdoing.
“I understand there will always be investigations in public life, but I am absolutely certain that they will show that we did things the right way and for right reasons,” he said.
Madina Toure contributed reporting to this story.
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.