Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday he could not recall personally soliciting campaign contributions from a deep-pocketed campaign donor, despite the donor’s testimony in federal court last week that he forked over more than $102,000 at the mayor’s request in exchange for favorable treatment.
“I don’t recall if I talked to him directly about that,” de Blasio told reporters at an unrelated news conference in Queens, when asked about felon Jona Rechnitz’s claims in federal court Friday that he donated the money after being asked by the mayor during a phone conversation in 2014.
In sworn testimony Friday, Rechnitz, 34, a Brooklyn real estate developer now serving as a witness in the federal bribery trial against Norman Seabrook, former head of the New York City correction officers union, said de Blasio requested the money as part of the mayor’s failed effort to help Democrats pick up seats in the Republican-controlled state Senate.
“The mayor told me it means a great deal to him,” Rechnitz told prosecutors in court Friday. “Once the mayor called me, I felt it was a personal favor to him.”
De Blasio, a Democrat seeking re-election on Nov. 7, labeled Rechnitz a “liar” and a “felon” on Sunday. The mayor said it was “very normal” that he could not remember having a conversation about the donation in question.
The mayor said that “for years” he has been “raising money for different causes,” including his nonprofit Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and an unsuccessful bid to bring the 2016 Democratic National Convention to the city.
“Way too much has happened. . . . It’s very normal that I wouldn’t remember a specific conversation,” de Blasio said at an unrelated news conference in Far Rockaway, initially meant to discuss revitalization efforts in the area on the fifth anniversary of superstorm Sandy.
Rechnitz, who pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, served as a cooperating witness in state and federal probes of de Blasio’s campaign fundraising practices that concluded earlier this year without prosecutors pressing charges. State prosecutors, did however raise reservations about de Blasio’s fundraising tactics, saying they ran “contrary to the intent and spirit” of campaign finance laws.
De Blasio, noting that prosecutors had not pursued charges, told reporters Rechnitz’s recent testimony “adds nothing” to what prosecutors have already reviewed.
“We had a full investigation of these matters . . . and there were no charges brought,” de Blasio said during a Sunday morning radio interview on 107.5 WBLS-FM.