Earlier this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio and his campaign team were cleared in a federal investigation of pay to play politics at city hall.
One figure at the center of that investigation was Ross Offinger, the mayor's political fundraiser. Now, NY1 is getting a closer look at how Offinger worked with City Hall.
"The fundraising team was working on a lot of things simultaneously. I did not have the time or the interest to get into the mechanics of their work," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in October.
NY1 recieved hundreds of pages of emails between City Hall aides, the mayor and Offinger covering the course of the mayor's first term. They show that at the start of the mayor's term, Offinger, who was collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars on behalf of the mayor's campaigns, was forwarding requests from political donors to City Hall. That includes from Jona Rechnitz, who claimed at a separate corruption trial this year that his thousands of dollars in political donations won him access to the de Blasio administration.
In 2014, Offinger emailed City Hall aides to get Rechnitz access to an exclusive event. The subject: "have a big donor friend of Jona rechnitz who wants to come tonight." Offinger made the ask for Rechnitz, then added, the mayor had signed off on it.
It was normal, the mayor told us, for Offinger to invite people to events.
"It was natural for someone who had been the finance director, he came on toward the end of my 2013 campaign, that someone in that position would provide names of people who should be invited to such a meeting. I think that's quite normal," he said.
At the time, Offinger was a member of the de Blasio campaign and also was fundraising for the mayor's now-defunct nonprofit, the Campaign for One New York. Since 2014, Offinger has recieved hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary from both entities.
The emails show Offinger at one time seemed to blend his campaign work with the government work at City Hall.
In an email from 2014, Offinger sends City Hall a whole list of business and real estate leaders he is "shooing for." To which, an aide writes: can we take this off an official thread.
Take another case, where City Hall aides loop in Offinger on a call with a big donor, Stephen Nislick. Nislick led the charge to ban horse carriages.
The notes show Nislick wanted the Department of Health to shine more of a "negative light" on the industry. In the same email, it says Nislick was promising the construction of affordable housing.
In 2014, Offinger also made suggestions for appointments to boards and commissions. And he was there to answer the mayor's questions.
Like when the mayor read a news story showing a campaign donation to him had been returned. Turns out the donation was from someone who had lobbied the city or had an open contract, which was prohibited.
Offinger says that donation was supposed to come from the donor's wife instead. That move would have avoided the rule.