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James Questioned By Public Advocate Rivals Over Campaign Contributions

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In the race for public advocate, candidate Letitia James is under fire by some over her rivals over the issue of whether she took money from developers while voting on their projects in the City Council. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

The question has now come up in the last two public advocate debates.

"I asked you in the last debate whether you have ever taken a campaign contribution from a developer, their spouse or someone affiliated with them at the same time that you were deciding on a project, and you did not respond," said candidate Reshma Saujani at Sunday's public advocate debate.

City Councilwoman Letitia James was finally asked the same question by one of the panelists.

"In fairness, I have heard you asked this question several times, but I haven't heard a specific answer. Did you accept contributions from developers at a time when you were considering their projects or their spouse? It's just a yes or no question," the panelist said.

"No," replied James.

James took more than $5,000 from people related to the Forest City Ratner Development, but she consistently opposed their Atlantic Yards project.

In 2009, the City Council voted on a residential tower near the Brooklyn Bridge by developer Two Trees.

James publicly supported the project, even though it wasn't in her district.

Then, in 2011 and 2012, the owners of Two Trees and their family members contributed close to $10,000 to James' campaign.

"It doesn't matter if they came at a different time, because these projects are ongoing and we have to look at the duration of time that these conversations were being had, and when contributions were coming in," Saujani said.

In a statement, the James campaign said, "The fact that Ms. Saujani, who is yet to explain having worked for the worst Wall Street actors, would have the audacity to level these false attacks is shameful. From Atlantic Yards to BAM South, Tish James has stood up to powerful developers on behalf of everyday New Yorkers, even when it meant paying a political price.”

James also took close to $5,000 in contributions from the beverage industry and people who work in the beverage industry.

She was one of the staunchest opponents of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to ban on large sugary drinks.

While this could create at least the appearance of a quid-pro-quo, in fact the issue never came before the City Council for a vote.

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