Mayor Bill de Blasio (NYLJ/Rick Kopstein)
Criminal charges will not be brought against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his fundraisers for soliciting campaign donations from people who sought favors from City Hall, Acting Southern District U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim announced Thursday morning.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. also announced Thursday that his office would not prosecute close staff and associates of the mayor in connection with the funding of state Senate races in 2014.
In a statement, Kim said evidence in the probe, in which de Blasio “made or directed inquiries to relevant city agencies on behalf of those donors” fell short.
“In considering whether to charge individuals with serious public corruption crimes, we take into account, among other things, the high burden of proof, the clarity of existing law, any recent changes in the law, and the particular difficulty in proving criminal intent in corruption schemes where there is no evidence of personal profit,” he said.
Kim, who replaced U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara after Bharara refused to resign and was fired Saturday, said he made the rare step of issuing a public statement about the status of the investigation “in order not to unduly influence the upcoming campaign and mayoral election.”
Vance’s office had been investigating whether the so-called “Coordinated Campaign,” or “Team de Blasio,” used contributions from unions and wealthy donors and passed them through county campaigns to state Senate campaigns to pay political consultants, “thereby evading candidate contribution limits,” the letter said.
New York State Board of Elections chief enforcement counsel Risa Sugarman, on Jan. 12, had told Vance in writing that “reasonable cause exists to believe violations warranting criminal prosecution” under state election and criminal law had occurred.
But on Thursday, Vance said that, even though the Board of Elections believed there may have been a violation of the law the parties here “cannot be appropriately prosecuted, given their reliance on advice of counsel.”
Nonetheless, Vance said, “the transactions appear contrary to the intent and spirit of the laws that impose candidate contribution limits, laws which are meant to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption” in the campaign financing process.
City Hall Press Secretary Eric Phillips released a statement on Thursday, commenting: “We have been confident from the moment these reviews began that the actions of the Mayor and our Administration have always been within the law. The United States Attorney and Manhattan District Attorney have now put to rest any suggestion otherwise. We thank these prosecutors’ offices for conducting what were clearly diligent and exhaustive reviews – and for making public the conclusions of these probes. New Yorkers deserve honest, progressive government. With this Mayor, they will always get it.”