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De Blasio's Campaign Attorney Fires Back Over Calls For Criminal Probe

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A lawyer for Mayor Bill de Blasio is firing back at the state Board of Elections for seeking a criminal probe in connection with a scathing report on the mayor's efforts to influence the 2014 Senate races.

In a letter to the agency, de Blasio's campaign lawyer, Laurence Laufer, said he was "deeply troubled" that a "blatantly political document was leaked to the press."

Laufer called it a political hit job, saying that Risa Sugarman, chief enforcement counsel for the state Board of Elections, misunderstood campaign finance law, WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported.

Sugarman's internal memo accuses de Blasio and his political aides of breaking campaign finance laws by funneling contributions over the legal limit into county committees in an unsuccessful effort to return the state Senate to Democratic control in 2014.

The mayor was blunt while dismissing the claims, WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported. 

"It's outrageous and again I don't know what's motivating it," de Blasio said.

When asked by CBS2's Marcia Kramer if there was "political motivation" in someone leaking Sugerman's letter to the press, de Blasio responded, "I am quite certain that all of you will get to the truth about that."

"We can say this -- a government officer is supposed to honor their responsibilities. First of all, it should never have been put into the public domain," de Blasio said.

Refuting the issue of whether it's a politically motivated investigation is this -- sources told CBS2 that all four members of the board, two Democrats and two Republicans, looked at Sugarman's findings and voted to have it forwarded to the district attorney.

"They take their matters very seriously, and for them to agree on anything between the Republican and the Democratic commissioners is something big," Dick Dadey, of the good government group Citizens Union, told CBS2's Tony Aiello.

"I have determined that reasonable cause exists to believe a violation warranting criminal prosecution has taken place," wrote Sugarman. "The violations discovered by the investigation can only be described as willful and flagrant."

Laufer disagreed, saying, "Your memorandum reflects either a shocking lack of understanding or a complete disregard of the most fundamental aspects of the state's election laws." Laufer added that the way de Blasio raised money "is unquestionably authorized by the existing law."

He said there is "nothing novel about the 2014 Democratic Party campaign to elect Democratic candidates to the state Senate, other than your attempt to selectively criminalize it."

Kramer was told by sources that two legal acts can turn into one illegal act. In this case, legal contributions made to a county committee that were immediately turned over to a candidate, or earmarked for a candidate, could violate the law.

Sugarman's report has prompted a full-scale investigation of de Blasio's fundraising by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and United States Attorney Preet Bharara, Kramer reported.

"We obviously received a letter from Ms. Sugarman and the matter is under investigation," Vance said.

Sugarman was appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is often at odds with the mayor, Diamond reported.

"A lot of very good people are having their names dragged through the mud over the last few weeks… That's not right, that's not fair," de Blasio said, as reported by 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa. 

A flurry of subpoenas have been issued in the wide-ranging probe, which also includes investigations into those behind a push to ban horse drawn carriages in the city as well as corruption within the New York City Police Department.

Meanwhile, community advocate Tony Herbert is demanding the mayor step down. He said there are three websites with petitions calling for de Blasio to leave office.

"You cannot honestly represent this city having these criminal investigations on your back," he said.

De Blasio has not been accused of any specific wrongdoing. He is trying to find out who leaked the report and has also reserved the right to sue, Kramer reported.

His spokesperson offered a written comment saying they believe they did nothing illegal.

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