A top city lobbyist and pal of Mayor de Blasio has agreed to a $40,000 settlement with the state’s ethics watchdog that investigated his dealings with a non-profit created to promote the mayors’ agenda.
Lobbyist James Capalino donated $10,000 and raised another $90,000 from clients for de Blasio’s Campaign for One New York at the request of Ross offinger’s, the mayor campaign treasurer.
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Afterwards, doors opened at City Hall for Capalino and his clients, according to the 6-page settlement posted Monday by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics said.
“Shortly after the contributions were made to CONY, respondent Capalino coordinated with Offinger, which respondent Capalino described to clients as a `kitchen cabinet.’ After several adjournments, a breakfast meeting was held in September of 2015, between the mayor, Capalino and clients of respondent Capalino and Associates who had made the contribution,” the JCOPE report said.
The settlement with Capalino notes that the state Lobbying Act “prohibits any lobbyist from offer[ing] a gift to any public official, unless under the circumstances it is not reasonable to infer that the gift was intended to influence such public officials,’’ adding that “a gift may not be given to a third party, including a charitable organization, on behalf of or at the designation or recommendation of a public official. . .”
De Blasio’s political operation set up CONY to raise money to promote his policy agenda, including his universal pre-K and affordable housing initiatives during his first term.
CONY was shut down amid federal and state pay-to-play investigations that de Blasio’s team was hitting up donors with business before the city. No charges were filed against the mayor.
Capalino agreed to pay the $40,000 without admitting to violating any laws.
“I have long admired Mayor de Blasio for his commitment to fighting for solutions to the problem of income inequality such as creating more affordable housing and universal pre-k. That is why I proudly agreed to support the Campaign for One,” Capalino said in a statement.
But he added, “I should have been more sensitive to how my support might appear. While there was no finding by JCOPE that I violated the law and I believe we would have prevailed had this gone to hearing, I look forward to putting this behind us and focusing on what our firm does best by providing the highest quality of strategic guidance.”w York’s efforts when asked to help.” .
Capalino was a big booster of de Blasio’s initial run for City Hall and bundled $45,000 for his re-election campaign.
De Blasio has complained that JCOPE’s probes of him and CONY amounted to selective enforcement. JCOPE’s commissioners are appointed by Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature.
A similar organization that supported Cuomo’s agenda in his first term — the Committee to Save New York — raised funds from interests with business before the state.
In another enforcement action, the animal rights group — New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets or NYCLASS — agreed to pay $10,000 for failing to register as a lobbyist while it pushed the mayor to ban horse carriages.
NYCLASS leaders also donated more than $100,000 to de Blasio’s CONY non-profit.