Thursday, December 15, 2016

NYC Mayor Fined Over $47G for Violating Campaign Finance Regulations

New York City Mayor de Blasio was hit with over $47,000 in fines for violating Campaign Finance Board (CFB) regulations, including having his Campaign pick up the tab for a makeup artist for his whole family and a trip to Washington D.C. with his son.

De Blasio tried to get his publicly financed Mayoral Campaign to pick up the bill for a 2010 trip to Washington D.C. with his son Dante in honor of the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.

De Blasio said it should be picked up by the Campaign because the rally “was an opportunity” to show Dante, who is half black, “as a visible manifestation of how the [C]andidate’s life experience was resonant to the spirit of the occasion.”

His campaign said it was similar to using the family in TV ads. It “makes visible the candidate’s life experience as a credential for public office.”

The CFB disagreed, saying there’s no “sufficient evidence that the expenditure to transport the candidate’s son to Washington D.C., was in furtherance of the campaign.”

De Blasio’s lawyers also tried to justify the $550 the Campaign paid to makeup artist Gina Riggi for the entire family on Election night as necessary in the “age of television,” because they all had to look good.

The family was “featured prominently in his Mayoral Campaign, so their planned public appearance together was very much in-line with their role in prior public communications on behalf of the [C]ampaign,” his staff wrote defending the charges to the CFB.

The Board didn’t buy it, noting that no “grooming” expenses are allowed under the Campaign Finance law.

The CFB also rejected a trip to California de Blasio expensed in 2012 in which he charged his campaign $558.49 for hotel and a rental car.

The Campaign said the trip was for fundraising in Silicon Valley, but the Board, noting he only raised one donation during the time he was out of state, said they needed more proof, which de Blasio never provided.

At the time, his daughter Chiara was attending college in the same town as his hotel. His campaign said the purpose was fundraising, not seeing his daughter.

The Mayor’s 2013 Mayoral Campaign was hit with a total of ten violations for $47,778 by the CFB, including improperly accepting donations from corporations, failing to report transactions, and accepting over the limit contributions.

Of that, $21,159 were for making “impermissible post-election expenditures” — including a huge payout to Hilltop Public Solutions, the PR company that includes de Blasio’s former Campaign Manager Bill Hyers.

The CFB didn’t find any evidence that Hilltop deserved $116,250 of the $168,750 it was paid by the Campaign for its work after the election.

A spokesman for de Blasio’s campaign said they “strongly disagree” with the CFB’s findings. The Election night makeup was “clearly a campaign expense,” said spokesman Dan Levitan. He also said the D.C. trip for the MLK event was “an important trip taken as part of the campaign.” Levitan said Hilltop helped wind down the campaign. “The CFB's own rules would prohibit Hilltop from not charging for this campaign wind-down work,” he said.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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