A campaign lawyer for Mayor de Blasio ripped a blockbuster memo from a Gov. Cuomo-appointed official alleging potentially criminal wrongdoing during the 2014 election as a political hit job.
Laurence Laufer, an attorney for some of the groups accused of violations who was also general counsel to de Blasio’s 2013 campaign, sent a letter Sunday to state Board of Elections Chief Enforcement Officer Risa Sugarman rebutting her allegations of a “willful and flagrant” effort to circumvent campaign contribution limits to benefit state Senate Democrats.
The moves by de Blasio and his team were egregious enough to warrant a criminal referral, wrote Sugarman, who was appointed by Cuomo in July 2014.
Laufer, in the letter obtained by the Daily News, insisted the groups involved did nothing wrong and panned Sugarman’s memo as a politically motivated document that showed “complete disregard of the long-recognized principles underlying our state’s election laws.
“I am deeply troubled that your office made a criminal referral that was based on a complete misreading and utter disregard of the state’s unambiguous election laws, and that your blatantly political document was leaked to the press. I specifically reserve all of my clients’ rights and remedies to pursue action against you and your office for all of your known and unknown conduct relating to the events referenced in this letter.”
A campaign lawyer for Mayor de Blasio’s fund-raising team accused the Board of Elections of playing politics.
Laufer noted reports that Senate Republicans and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg had used similar tactics.
“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,” the lawyer wrote.
There’s no conspiracy “unless you found evidence that the committee’s officers and members were held hostage and forced to deposit and disburse funds at gunpoint. I’m guessing that’s unlikely.”
“I am at a loss to understand any proper purpose that could have been served by a criminal referral based on conduct that is unquestionably authorized by the existing law,” Laufer wrote.
BOE Chief Enforcement Officer Risa Sugarman made allegations of a “willful and flagrant” effort to circumvent campaign contribution limits.
Sugarman charged in her memo that de Blasio’s team solicited donations to local Democratic committees that then quickly transferred the money to individual candidates, avoiding a $10,300 limit on candidate contributions.
“Each committee member understood and believed that the contributions received and the expenditures made were in full compliance with the law,” Putnam County Democratic Chairman Ken Harper said in a statement.
A race in Putnam County was among the contests targeted by de Blasio when his team raised money for Senate candidates.
“There was no intent to evade individual campaign finance limits.”
Authorities are investigating whether Mayor de Blasio’s fund-raising team broke laws when collecting big bucks in donations.
Laufer argued the law allows committees to give unlimited financial support to that party’s candidates, and that it’s normal for leaders like the mayor to participate in such efforts.
“Your office is apparently characterizing political party committees as mere ‘straw donors’ and treating a coordinated political party effort to elect a majority to the state Senate as some kind of criminal conspiracy,” he wrote.
Sugarman did not respond to a request for comment.
“The only things we know about the reported investigations by the U.S. attorney, district attorney and Board of Elections are what have been reported in the press,” said Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever.
Meanwhile, two local activists called for de Blasio to step down due to the growing probe into his fund-raising activity.
“Every time you turn around, there’s something negative with him having his hand in the pot,” said Tony Herbert, who joined with fellow Brooklyn activist John Rodriguez. “We have people go to jail … for less than this.”