The city’s Campaign Finance Board slapped Mayor Bill de Blasio this afternoon with $47,778 in penalties for an array of violations connected with his 2013 campaign—including verboten post-election expenses, travel costs for his son and “makeup services” for his family.
The mayor, who did not have anyone appear on his behalf at the board’s monthly meeting, also has to repay $485.02 in public funds, which represents the campaign’s final bank balance. The decision comes just as the City Council is set to vote on a package of bills that seek to restructure the city’s campaign finance system, and two weeks after the board whacked ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner with $64,856 in fines for his improprieties in the Democratic primary for mayor three years ago.
“While we strongly disagree with many of the CFB’s findings, we are pleased that the 2013 campaign audit is now complete,” Dan Levitan, a campaign spokesman for de Blasio, said in an emailed statement.
His biggest fine was $21,159 for making impermissible post-election expenditures. In a summary of its final determination for the de Blasio, the board said that the campaign paid Hilltop Public Solutions $168,750 for post-election services, $116,250 of which they said are improper post-election expenses.
The mayor’s campaign said that Hilltop served as its general consultant and that it was qualified to oversee the initial post-election “winding down work” as well as the “final winding down” work—and cited the hiring of Bill Hyers as contributing to the firm’s “unique” qualifications. The campaign also said the firm was paid on an as-needed basis as opposed to a standard monthly retainer so the fees paid under contract are nominal.
Hyers is one of the five infamous “agents of the city” whose email correspondence with the administration de Blasio has refused to release—even in the face of lawsuits from the press.
But the board said that the campaign failed to provide ample documentation and explanations outlining the responsibilities, work product and other services Hilltop provided.
The next biggest fine was $12,483 for accepting over-the-limit contributions, followed by $6,086 for accepting contributions from corporations, limited liability companies or partnerships and $3,200 for failing to demonstrate compliance with intermediary reporting and documentation requirements.
He was also fined for $2,087 for failing to file/late filing of daily pre-election disclosure statements and $1,000 for accepting contributions from unregistered political committees.
Other smaller penalties were $407 for failing to report transactions, $300 for failing to document transactions and $250 for commingling with campaign funds accepted for a different election.
The mayor was also fined $806 for failing to demonstrate that spending was in furtherance of the campaign. In particular, the board notes $550 spent on makeup services for de Blasio and his family on Election Night, which his campaign descried as a legitimate expense because it was meant to prepare them for their scheduled televised public campaign appearances “at a likely victory celebration.” But the board stated that using campaign funds for “personal grooming” is prohibited.
Levitan said that the use of makeup for election night appearances is “clearly a campaign expense” and called the Washington, D.C. trip an important one “taken as part of the campaign.” He also said that the board’s own rules would prohibit Hilltop from not charging for the campaign’s wind-down work.
Another expenditure that the board flagged as not campaign-related was $287.70 to Delta Air for his son Dante to accompany him to a National Action Network march and rally to commemorate the 47th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. in 2010.
The campaign said was an opportunity for Dante to appear at the event “as a visible manifestation of how the [C}andidate’s life experience was resonant to the spirit of the occasion.” The campaign also said the appearance was equivalent to television ads featuring any candidate’s family members. But the board dismissed the explanations as insufficient.
Christine Quinn, who challenged de Blasio in the 2013 mayoral primary, was fined a total of $13,611 for her campaign. City Comptroller Scott Stringer, a rumored rival to de Blasio in next year’s Democratic primary, got charged more than $10,000 for failing to report transactions in his 2013 bid to become the city’s chief financial officer.
The majority of the fines stem from accepting over-the-limit contributions, for which she was charged $5,425. The next biggest fine was $3,200 for failing to demonstrate compliance with intermediary reporting and documentation requirements, followed by $1,962 for accepting contributions from corporations, LLCs or partnerships.
She was also fined for $975 for accepting contributions from unregistered political committees, $750 for failing to report bank accounts used for campaign purposes, $502 for failing to document transactions, $500 for failing to provide bank/merchant statements and $297 for failing to report transactions.