Saturday, April 26, 2014

EXCLUSIVE: FBI investigation of mayoral race includes de Blasio's pledge to ban carriage horses - NY Daily News

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JULIE XANTHOS NY DAILY NEWS
EXCLUSIVE: FBI investigation of mayoral race includes de Blasio's pledge to ban carriage horses - NY Daily News
BY GREG B. SMITH  NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Friday, April 25, 2014, 10:20 PM

FBI agents have been questioning people about the pledge de Blasio made in March 2013, and the ads launched the next month by animal rights activists attacking Christine Quinn, the Daily News has learned. Agents also appear interested in a $175,000 contribution to the animal rights group NYCLASS from a union tied to de Blasio's cousin, labor leader John Wilhelm.
An FBI investigation of last year’s mayoral race includes an examination of Bill de Blasio’s campaign pledge to ban carriage horses, the Daily News has learned.
NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiFBI agents have been questioning people about the pledge, which was made in March 2013, and the ad blitz launched the next month by animal rights advocates attacking de Blasio’s chief rival, Christine Quinn, two sources familiar with the investigation said Friday.
FBI agents also appear highly interested in a $175,000 contribution by a union tied to de Blasio’s cousin, labor leader John Wilhelm, to the animal rights group NYCLASS, the sources Friday.
NYCLASS helped to bankroll the “Anybody But Quinn” campaign attacking Quinn’s mayoral candidacy.
At least five people have been questioned by the FBI in the past month as part of the investigation, those familiar with the inquiry told The News.
The News first disclosed the FBI investigation on Friday, reporting that the FBI was looking at a threat by NYCLASS’ political consultant Scott Levenson early last year to undermine Quinn's campaign if she didn’t back the carriage horse ban.

De Blasio's cousin John Wilhelm (pictured) is the former head of the union group UNITE HERE!, which wrote a $175,000 check to NYCLASS in June 2013.
The new revelations indicate the investigation is broader, touching on de Blasio as well.
De Blasio said Friday that he was unaware of any investigation. He added that nobody in his campaign had been questioned.
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T.J. KIRKPATRICK GETTY IMAGES
“Literally, I’ve told you all I know. I’m not familiar with the allegations so I can’t comment,” de Blasio told reporters.
Levenson said through a spokeswoman that he had not been questioned by the FBI, either.
But he said that he was “proud” of his consulting firm’s role in the mayoral race — which included directing the Anybody But Quinn attacks.

De Blasio's cousin John Wilhelm (pictured) is the former head of the union group UNITE HERE!, which wrote a $175,000 check to NYCLASS in June 2013.
In March 2013, de Blasio announced at a candidates' forum that he would eliminate horse-drawn carriages during his first week as mayor — much to the delight of NYCLASS and other animal rights activists.
“Our advocacy for the issues and clients we fight for is no different than advocacy work that takes place in our democracy every day,” said the spokeswoman for his firm, The Advance Group.
“Even if you are not happy with the results, our campaign cannot be characterized as anything more than that, and the fact that it was effective.”
De Blasio announced at a candidates’ forum in March 2013 that he would eliminate the horse-drawn carriages in his first week as mayor, delighting NYCLASS and other animal rights activists.
In early April, after Quinn refused to support the proposed carriage ban, NYCLASS founder Steve Nislick, and board member Wendy Neu, gave $200,000 each to New York City is Not for Sale, the political action committee formed by Levenson to carry out the Anybody But Quinn campaign of TV ads, robocalls and mailings — which began that month — attacking her.
In May and June, NYCLASS chipped a total of $225,000 to the anti-Quinn effort, records show.

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The FBI is looking into the ad blitz launched by animal rights advocates attacking de Blasio's chief rival, Christine Quinn, after she refused to support the proposed carriage horse ban.
And in June, two of de Blasio’s top financial supporters gave $225,000 to NYCLASS, records show.
One of those supporters was de Blasio’s cousin, Wilhelm, who was then head of the union group UNITE HERE!, which wrote a check for $175,000 to NYCLASS — the biggest contribution NYCLASS had ever received. The other was Jay Eisenhoffer, an attorney.
Wilhelm and Eisenhoffer also acted as “intermediaries” for de Blasio’s mayoral campaign, collecting $165,000 in contributions for him, records show.
Still, de Blasio has said that neither he nor his campaign coordinated with NYCLASS or New York City is Not for Sale in attacking Quinn. Any such coordination could be a violation of campaign laws.
The Anybody But Quinn fusillade succeeded exactly as NYCLASS hoped. When the attacks began in April, Quinn was cruising in first place. By late June, she had fallen to third in the Democratic primary, which de Blasio won on Sept. 10.
With Jennifer Fermino