At worst, it masks the activity of questionable contributors — a possibility that put Adams and his campaign in the crosshairs of federal investigators and led to last week’s seizure of his electronic devices.
“You may want to keep secret from people who, for one reason or another, are not supposed to be fundraising for you,” said Basil Smikle, former executive director of the New York State Democratic Committee who led the party of Adams’ opponent, Ray McGuire. campaign, in an interview.
Adams’ team stressed that it operated within the rules relating to intermediaries.
But federal authorities are now scrutinizing Adams’ campaign finances.
And there is an overlap between their investigation into whether his team colluded with the Turkish government to accept illegal foreign contributions and the flags being waved by the New York City Campaign Finance Council. The board, as part of a routine audit, is examining suspected and unreported middlemen, the city’s term for aggregators collecting campaign money from multiple people that can then be used to gain funds public counterparties.
The May 2021 fundraising event with KSK Construction employees, for example, is being scrutinized by federal authorities as well as local auditors, The City reported.
“Public reporting on intermediaries provides the public with a more comprehensive view of the role money plays in municipal elections,” said Campaign Finance Board spokesperson Tim Hunter, emphasizing the importance of disclosing intermediaries – although he declined to speak specifically about the routine audit. of Adams’ offer.
Asked about their revelations, Adams campaign attorney Vito Pitta said in a statement: “We are following the letter of the law. If a person does not meet the definition of an intermediary, it would be inaccurate to identify them as such.
In 2021, Adams reported four middlemen who raised $37,520 for his ultimately successful mayoral campaign — a fraction of the $10.8 million he brought in in total — according to Campaign Finance Board records.
Compare his revelations to other mayoral candidates this cycle.
Documents filed by Kathryn Garcia show 40 intermediaries collected $270,630; Scott Stringer recorded 27 intermediaries raising $128,220, with one consolidator meticulously reporting just $100 from five donors; and McGuire listed two intermediaries who raised $138,630, even though he took no matching public funds.
Or compare Adams’ 2021 mayoral campaign to his 2013 campaign for Brooklyn borough president, when he reported 26 midterms.
The lack of transparency opens the door to events like the one KSK Construction hosted in Brooklyn in May 2021. The company and the Turkish American Business Network invited guests and asked them to donate, according to Gothamist, but no person involved was listed as an intermediary. . The relative impact a well-connected bundler might have had on Adams’ campaign is not reflected in his records.
KSK Construction is part of the investigation into whether Adams’ campaign conspired with the Turkish government and whether a so-called straw donation scheme helped him funnel foreign funds, The New York Times reported .
Neither Adams nor his top fundraiser, Brianna Suggs, whose Brooklyn home was raided by the FBI on Nov. 2, have been indicted or accused of wrongdoing.
Adams’ team emphasizes that their intermediary practice is technically honest and says the campaign’s events have helped encourage new, low-cost contributors.
“None of these requests have been flagged as possible straw donors,” campaign spokesman Evan Thies said of the Campaign Finance Board’s warnings. “The investigations focused on possible unreported intermediaries, none of which were required to be reported.”
The more opaque approach seems unique to Adams’ 2021 campaign.
Frank Carone, a Brooklyn power broker who served as Adams’ chief of staff, was disclosed in Campaign Finance Board records as a go-between for Stringer in 2021, but not for Adams, although Carone is widely known for being a prolific fundraiser for Adams.
Joel Eisdorfer, now a senior adviser to the mayor, was a liaison for Adams’ campaign for borough president in 2017, but not for his mayoral campaign four years later.
Donors and fundraisers interviewed by POLITICO revealed a host of ways to legally avoid the requirement to list middlemen and aggregators.
For example, there is a widely held view that fans who host parties at their homes should not be disclosed as intermediaries, although they must do so if they spend more than $500. Events where the bill is paid by the campaign or rallies where contributors donate digitally rather than through physical checks are also considered loopholes.
“It should probably be looked at,” Sarah Steiner, a New York-based elections attorney, said of the law update. “It may be that technology overtakes statutory language. »
Even though it’s not legally required, being listed as an intermediary seems more open and consistent with the spirit of the law, aggregators for other 2021 mayoral candidates told POLITICO.
“Generally speaking, it seems like it’s good for democracy if people know who supports candidates and how important that support is,” said Elizabeth Glazer, a former Bill de Blasio administration official. revealed by Kathryn Garcia’s 2021 campaign as intermediary.
Jeff Coltin contributed to this report.