Contributions to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s forthcoming legal defense fund must be below $50 per donor, the New York City’s Conflicts of Interest Board ruled on Wednesday.
De Blasio, who was cleared two weeks ago of legal wrongdoing, racked up tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills fighting a yearlong probe of his fundraising practices. He has said he must fundraise anew because “I’m not a millionaire or billionaire” and doesn’t want to charge taxpayers for his lawyers, whom have not yet been paid.
In a seven-page advisory opinion signed by board chairman Richard Briffault, the board said that it “considers contributions to such legal defense funds as it would any gifts to the public servant personally.”
“Contributions to legal defense funds for public servants are no different from gifts directly to the public servant and thus are subject to the gift restrictions” under city regulations, the opinion said.
Only de Blasio’s family and friends can exceed the cap, and even then only if those people don’t have business before the city, according to the board’s decision.
Donations by people related to each other — if they’re not de Blasio relatives — or domestic partners can’t exceed the cap, which also applies to people who work together.
On March 16, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan and the borough’s district attorney announced that there was insufficient evidence to file charges against either de Blasio or his inner circle in connection with questionable fundraising practices. But prosecutors said de Blasio appeared to violate the spirit and intent of campaign finance laws.
In response to Wednesday’s board opinion, de Blasio said he might ask the New York City Council to change the law to permit him to raise the cap. He also said his team would have speak with the board about the limits.
“We’re certainly going to have more dialogue,” de Blasio said.