When Eric Adams became the front-runner in the race for mayor in 2021, campaign cash flowed easier, including millions of dollars in public matching funds.
“I was more transparent than anyone else, because I am a transparent elected official and I am going to continue to do so,” Adams said in June 2021.
But we’re just learning now where some of that money came from.
NY1 has uncovered documents showing lobbyists fundraised for the mayor in 2021 — fundraising that has not been reported before. The documents were filed with the city clerk’s office, and the numbers amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars for the hizzoner.
At least 10 lobbyists fundraised for the mayor’s inaugural run, raising more than $341,000.
But the Adams campaign never reported any of these lobbyists as bundlers or intermediaries with the city’s campaign finance board. By law, campaigns must report people who collect donations for their campaigns to the board.
We have found some of the biggest lobbying firms in the city were fundraising for the mayor, including Greenberg Traurig, Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, and Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies. These firms have business before City Hall.
For instance, CMW Strategies, which raised thousands of dollars for the mayor in 2021, lobbied the Adams administration on behalf of the National Supermarket Association in 2022 on public safety issues.
Last week, the association appeared with the mayor and his top deputies in an announcement to crack down on retail crime.
Another firm, Greenberg Traurig, has some of the biggest clients in the city.
Earlier this year, the mayor toured one of their client’s buildings to promote an office to residential conversion there.
Typically, if someone has business before the city, their donations are limited and any money they raise for a candidate cannot be matched with city public matching funds.
That was a change the City Council made in 2016 — prohibiting those donations from getting matched with public funds.
Since that law was approved, there has been a massive drop off in the number of intermediaries reported by campaigns in competitive election cycles.
And instead, some may be using a loophole in the law.
“If you are talking about people who are the hosts or fundraisers who are helping to put together an event that is sponsored by the campaign, the law as written does not require those people being reported to us,” said Eric Friedman of the city’s Campaign Finance Board.
Basically, if a campaign pays for an event, then it does not have to disclose who hosted or fundraised for it.
According to an Adams campaign spokesperson, the campaign paid for all of the fundraisers where these lobbyists were hosts. So legally, they did not have to report the lobbyists as intermediaries, and the donations they raised could be matched with public funds.
“Because of a giant loophole in the city’s campaign finance laws, lobbyists can raise millions of dollars for the mayor while they are representing clients that do business with the city, which is just an invitation for pay to play,” said John Kaehny of Reinvent Albany.
Some good-government groups say that loophole should be closed.
In a statement, Adams adviser and 2021 campaign spokesperson Evan Thies said: “The mayor’s campaigns have always — and will always — follow the law—and all relevant information has been reported to the correct oversight bodies transparently and appropriately. More than 10,000 people gave to the Adams campaign—and the vast majority of those contributors were working class New Yorkers who have small amounts, allowing the campaign to raise more than any other campaign in the history of New York.”