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Probe: De Blasio Administration Showed A 'Willful And Flagrant' Violation Of Campaign Finance Laws

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The lead investigator for the Board of Elections looking into the 2014 fundraising efforts of the Bill de Blasio administration believes there was a '"willful and flagrant"violation of campaign finance laws during that period of time.

Sources told CBS2's Marcia Kramer that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance now has in his hand a scathing report on Mayor de Blasio's efforts to influence the 2014 senate races in a move to defeat Republicans by funneling money to Democrats using an apparent back channel scheme.

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

The memo doesn't name any specific individual who should be charged, 1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria reported. 

It is alleged that the de Blasio Administration funneled money through Democratic county committees to evade campaign contribution limits. The money was allegedly intended to be used to help three upstate candidates win their elections, so the Democratic party could have an upper hand in the Senate.

"Everything we've done is legal and appropriate," de Blasio said. "I've said many times we've held ourselves throughout and hold ourselves to a very high standard of integrity."

CBS2 reports donors are prohibited to to give more than $10,300 to any individual candidate, but can donate up to $102,300 to county political committees. Those committees are then allowed to transfer funds to individual campaigns.

The board's investigation came after complaints made by Republicans in Putnam and Ulster counties. The practice is also said to have been done in other races.

CBS2 first told the story almost 18 months ago in October of 2014 when then-Republican candidate for the senate, Terrence Murphy, demanded a federal investigation of the practice. Murphy was furious calling it "politics at its worst." He said de Blasio was asking people who do business with the city to cut big checks.

And while the district attorney is probing a large cast of de Blasio intimates, including fundraiser Ross Offinger, at the time the mayor told Kramer the practice was "normal."

"It's something that's been going on in the state for a long time. It's a very normal thing to provide support for party organizations," he said.

The state and federal probe into the de Blasio Administration has expended to include Emma Wolfe, the mayor's director of intergovernmental affairs, as well as union officials and consulting firms with longstanding ties to City Hall, WCBS 880's Stephanie Colombini reported.

A flurry of subpoenas have been issued in a wide-ranging probe into various fundraising activities by de Blasio, reportedly trying to determine whether election laws were circumvented and whether promises were made in exchange for the donations. The probe 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.

Earlier this month, Deputy Housing Chief Michael Harrington and Deputy Inspector James Grant, head of the Upper East Side's 19th Precinct, were stripped of their guns and badges and transferred in the wake of the investigation. Brooklyn South Deputy Chief Eric Rodriguez and Brooklyn Housing Commanding Officer Deputy Chief David Colon were also transferred.

Doug Muzzio, a political science professor at Baruch College, said that whether de Blasio is guilty or not, the investigation is bad news for the mayor and his team.

"It's draining of emotions, of money, of time," Muzzio told Colombini.

A mayoral spokeswoman said the administration is confident its efforts were appropriate and that the office will fully cooperate with the investigations.


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