Andrew Yang and Eric Adams both asked the Campaign Finance Board to investigate the other, as Scott Stringer alluded to ethical questions that have dogged several candidates.
Two leading mayoral candidates on Tuesday each asked campaign finance regulators to investigate the other as a race that had been fairly cordial grew increasingly harsh five weeks from Primary Day.
Andrew Yang, referring to information published in Monday’s New York Times suggesting that Eric Adams might have failed to report that thousands of dollars in campaign contributions came through an intermediary, asked the Campaign Finance Board to investigate whether public matching funds had been inappropriately applied to those donations.
A few hours later, Adams released a letter his campaign had sent to the CFB alleging that Yang had been improperly using his national nonprofit and his dormant presidential campaign to circumvent campaign finance rules and boost Yang’s image.
Meanwhile, Scott Stringer unveiled an ethics plan that included the appointment of an “ethics czar” in City Hall, banning any contributions or pass-through fundraising by people with business before the city and improving the city’s responses to Freedom of Information Law requests.
Stringer targets ‘dark money’
In remarks at Foley Square, where he was endorsed by former Manhattan Borough President and 1997 Democratic mayoral nominee Ruth Messinger, Stringer criticized the amount of “dark money” flowing into the mayoral race. State campaign finance records indicate some $5.2 million has been injected into independent spending vehicles in just the past week.
While Stringer is himself being supported by independent entities, he singled out two $500,000 donations by hedge-fund magnate Kenneth Griffin to PACs backing Yang and Adams, and a $500,000 check from hedge-funder Daniel Loeb to the pro-Yang PAC.
“This is who owns Andrew Yang,” Stringer said. “I have to tell you: when you look at Andrew Yang attack Eric Adams with his own ethical lapses, the two of them back and forth, this makes our election a mockery.”
Griffin and Loeb’s payments are hardly the only big checks to drop in the past week. George Soros has sent in $1 million to an independent effort supporting Maya Wiley and unions have pumped in $1.4 million.
A new poll shows Adams leading the race and Yang tied with Stringer in second place. Kathryn Garcia, boosted by endorsements over the past week by the New York Times and Daily News, was running fourth.
Ethics questions have been bubbling for weeks as Stringer was accused of sexual misconduct, the role of lobbyist Bradley Tusk in Yang’s campaign came under scrutiny, and the CFB looked into allegations that Shaun Donovan’s mayoral campaign could not be sufficiently independent of a PAC bankrolled by his father (though the CFB did ultimately award matching funds to Donovan’s campaign). This week, in addition to the Times story on Adams, The City broke the news that Dianne Morales bribed a city inspector back in 2002 and told inconsistent stories about the incident to city investigators.
Yang on Tuesday was joined by Councilmember Carlos Menchaca to release a plan intended to strengthen democracy in the city. He called for extending voting rights to 16- and 17-year-olds as well as noncitizens, expanding voter engagement on Rikers Island and civic education in schools, and fully funding the Board of Elections and Civic Engagement Commission.
But Yang prefaced his remarks with his call for an investigation of Adams. Among other allegations, the Times story reported that real estate developer David Schwartz had been involved in fundraisers for Adams but had not been identified as an intermediary, and that other people involved fundraisers had also not done so.
“If you are a taxpayer in New York City, you should be angry that our money is being used to amplify the voice of special interests that do not need it and I’m asking on behalf of all New Yorkers for the CFB to investigate thoroughly just how much special-interest money Eric bundled in violation of campaign finance law,” Yang said.
Adams’ campaign strongly condemned the Times story on Monday, saying it includes a false headline and misleading article attacking Adams, saying he ‘found ways to help donors.’”
“No authority has determined this is the case and, in fact, there is no evidence in the Times’ article to support this outrageous claim,” said campaign spokesperson Evan Thies in a statement. “Eric has only ever used his public office to help the public. The campaign demands that the New York Times apologize for this unfounded attack immediately.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Adams campaign released a letter asking the CFB to “immediately commence an investigation into the apparent self-dealing between Yang for New York, Inc., Friends of Andrew Yang, Humanity Forward Foundation, Inc., and Humanity Forward PAC.” The letter alleged that Yang’s nonprofit, Humanity Forward, and his presidential campaign, Friends of Andrew Yang, had illegally aided his campaign by promoting him through a shared Facebook page. It also claimed that Humanity Forward had pumped money into Yang’s presidential vehicle to resolve debts, and improperly boosted his mayoral candidacy by awarding microgrants in New York City.
Yang’s campaign says control of the Facebook page has passed among the presidential campaign, nonprofit and mayoral campaign over time as Yang’s role has changed. It also contends that Humanity Forward’s purchase of voter lists from the presidential campaign was normal, and that the microgrants program preceded his mayoral run.
“Journalists just detailed yet another damning pattern by Eric Adams of breaking campaign finance laws to benefit his donors and hide their contributions,” said Jake Sporn, Yang’s press secretary. “In response, he’s accusing Andrew Yang of giving too much money to struggling Bronx families during the pandemic. We’ll let voters decide which is more problematic in a potential mayor.”
A spokesman for the CFB would not confirm whether or not the Board had received either Yang’s or Adams’ complaint, but told City Limits, “The CFB will review all information pertinent to its ongoing audit reviews of the 2021 campaigns.”