New York City Mayor Eric Adams set up a legal protection fund on Friday while federal agents look into his 2021 campaign for public office corruption. The fund lets the mayor accept donations outside of the normal campaign cycle. It is overseen by the town’s Conflicts of Curiosity Board, which first told about the new fundraising vehicle by posting a collection of paperwork on Friday.
According to a letter from Adams on Wednesday, the Eric Adams Authorized Protection Belief “is required by, and supposed to defray, authorized bills in relation to the inquiries by the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York regarding the operations of the Eric Adams 2021 mayoral campaign committee.”
As of now, Eric Adams can accept gifts of up to $5,000. Every three months, he should give the names and addresses of people who gave $100 to the Conflicts of Curiosity Board. Adams’s initial report might be coming on January 15. But not everyone can give—the law says that Adams’s peers in government and anyone doing business with the town can’t give.
Federal investigators believe that the marketing effort worked together with the Turkish government and took illegal donations from Turkish citizens through straw donors. Even though FBI agents did a number of raids and interviews on November 2, no one has been charged with any crime.
Adams to the idea that he could use campaign funds to hire a personal lawyer from WilmerHale, the law firm that his former chief counsel just recently returned to. Even so, what he said on Friday means he’ll try to get at least some of the money from new sources.
The fund’s director is Peter Aschkenasy, who worked with the mayor when he was Brooklyn’s borough president, which helped Adams get his mayoral campaign off the ground. As a longtime restaurant owner, Aschkenasy said that he doesn’t plan to be involved with fundraising and is only acting as the accountant.
A law firm called Pitta LLP, which did campaign funding compliance for Adams’ campaign, is also named on documents that support the claim. In an announcement, the agency’s co-managing associate Vito Pitta said, “After meeting with the Campaign Finance Board and the Conflicts of Curiosity Board, it was decided that a belief needs to be created for any authorized bills.”
Sylvia Hinds-Radix, the mayor’s company counsel, wrote to Adams that the creation of the fund means that her workplace has nothing to do with the issue. “Based on the information we have at this time, the Office of the Company Counsel does not and will not represent you in your personal capacity in this investigation or in any future investigations or issues that arise from this investigation, whether they are civil or criminal in nature,” she wrote.
The New York City Council created this example of a legal protection fund in 2019 as a way to let elected officials with mounting legal fees accept cash instead of the town’s $50 reward ban, which is meant to discourage bribery.
At the time, former Mayor Invoice de Blasio had racked up a bill of about $300,000 that was supposed to cover a government investigation into how he raised money for his own political campaigns. He said that he liked the idea of a legal defense fund, but he never actually set one up.