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De Blasio's Fundraising Tactics In NY Senate Race Called Into Question

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Is it pay-to-play or politics as usual?

A Republican New York state Senate candidate is demanding a federal investigation of Mayor Bill de Blasio's efforts to help Democrats capture the upper house of the Legislature.

As CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported, the mayor has actively been raising money for Democratic Senate candidates in northern Westchester and Putnam counties, among other places far out of his jurisdiction.

"Mayor de Blasio, we've got words from Westchester: Stay in New York City," said Senate candidate Dr. Terrence Murphy.

What has irritated Murphy is how de Blasio is going about raising money, which he says is "politics at its worst."

The mayor is personally asking people, some who do business with the city -- including supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis -- to cut big checks.

In Catsimatidis' case, it was $50,000 -- far exceeding the $10,300 limit an individual can give to a candidate.

To get around that, Catsimatidis, who ran for New York City mayor last year as a Republican, was told to give the money to the Putnam County Democratic Committee, which then sent the money to Murphy's opponent and other Democrats.

"This is a shakedown on New York City businesses by Mayor Bill de Blasio," Murphy said. "It's a money-laundering scam."

But the mayor said what he's doing is perfectly legal and everybody does it.

"It's something that's been going on for a long time in this state," de Blasio told Kramer. "It's a very normal thing to provide support for party organizations."

De Blasio insisted the tactic is not pay-to-play.

"It's not," he said. "There's nothing new here. For years and years, people have supported party organizations."

Susan Lerner of the good-government group Common Cause said the situation shows how flawed New York's campaign-finance laws are. She said de Blasio is in the right and is making use of a legal loophole.

"I don't think that the mayor is at fault for doing what everybody else does," she said. "I think the system is at fault."

When asked if she thought it passed the smell test for de Blasio to ask people who do business with the city to make big donations, Lerner replied: "I don't think it passes the smell test for anybody to do that, but at the same time, we know that the Real Estate Board of New York is doing exactly that."

Lerner said the state needs to overhaul campaign-finance laws, and she said de Blasio supports that.

The mayor said he wants to see Democrats rule the Senate so he can get legislation passed raising the minimum wage and other laws the city wants.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg often wrote large personal checks for Senate Republicans.

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