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Horse carriage ban group fined over campaign finance violations

People protest against the use of carriage horses

People protest against the use of carriage horses at Central Park on April 24, 2014 in New York City. Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

The animal rights group at the center of the legislative push to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City was hit Thursday with $26,000 in penalties over violations of campaign finance law.

New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, or NYCLASS, faces $26,054 in fines because of expenditures made on behalf of two City Council campaigns and misrepresenting the $16,000 spent on campaign literature as "independent," even though the group shared a political consultant -- The Advance Group -- with the candidates.

"If you're going to become an independent spender, you cannot outsource responsibility for compliance with the law," board member Richard Davis said of NYCLASS' hiring of The Advance Group.

NYCLASS lawyer Randy Mastro said that the group was a "victim" of The Advance Group and noted that the board has acknowledged NYCLASS was unaware of Advance's relationship with City Council candidates Laurie Cumbo and Mark Levine's campaigns.

Mastro, in a letter to Advance attorney Lawrence Mandelker, said NYCLASS has agreed to a "substantial payment" to settle the board finding, which "resulted directly and solely from the actions" of Advance.

Mandelker, in a letter to Mastro, said Advance denies that "any of its actions on behalf of NYCLASS were either improper or compromised the independence of NYCLASS' expenditures."

The Campaign Finance Board said it also expects to eventually consider fines against and violations by Advance. The board fined Councilwoman Cumbo (D-Brooklyn) and Councilman Levine (D-Manhattan) in a separate ruling last May.

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