New York (AP) — New York City Mayor Eric Adams denied any involvement in illegal political fundraising Friday, but his campaign pledged it would review its books, a day after federal agents raided the home of one of the Democrat's chief fundraisers.
“I am outraged and angry if anyone attempted to use the campaign to manipulate our democracy and defraud our campaign," Adams said in a statement on Friday. An attorney for his campaign, Vito Pitta, said they were reviewing “all documents and actions by campaign workers connected to the contributors in question.”
The comments came one day after federal agents searched the Brooklyn home of Adams’ top campaign fundraiser, Brianna Suggs, prompting the mayor to scuttle a planned trip to meet with White House officials in Washington and instead return to New York.
The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan declined to comment on the investigation, but The New York Times reported that it had obtained a search warrant indicating that authorities were examining whether the Adams campaign conspired with the Turkish government to receive donations from foreigners that are banned by law.
The warrant sought records related to contributions, travel to Turkey by people linked to the campaign and documents of interactions between the campaign and Turkey's government, or people acting at its behest, the newspaper reported.
“I want to be clear, I have no knowledge, direct or otherwise, of any improper fundraising activity — and certainly not of any foreign money,” Adams said.
The warrant also sought information related to a Brooklyn company, KSK Construction Group, along with a small university in Washington, D.C., tied to the Turkish government.
A spokesperson for Suggs declined to comment. She has not been charged with any crime.
Campaign records show 11 individuals who listed their employer as KSK Construction, which gave more than $13,000 to Adams during a fundraiser held on May 7th, 2021. Reached by phone, several of those contributors declined to say if they had donated directly to Adams, with two people telling The Associated Press they were advised against speaking publicly. One of the listed donors said they had been contacted by federal authorities.
Adams has touted his connections to Turkey, a country that he visited at least half a dozen times as a state senator and Brooklyn borough president. Returning from a 2015 trip, he said he had helped further relations “on commerce, culture, and safety.”
The federal inquiry comes on the heels of two other investigations that have uncovered links between Adams’ inner circle and New York’s real estate sector.
In September, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg charged Eric Ulrich, once the city’s top building-safety official under Adams, with accepting bribes in exchange for political favors, such as speeding up the inspection of a pizzeria or attempting to vacate a low-income apartment at the request of a luxury developer.
His arrest came just two months after Manhattan prosecutors brought charges against six others in an alleged straw donor conspiracy to divert tens of thousands of dollars to Adams’ mayoral campaign in the months before his election. Four construction officials were charged in the scheme, as was a former NYPD commander who had known the mayor for decades.
Adams has not been directly implicated in either of those cases. But political observers say the latest federal investigation focused on the top ranks of his fundraising team may be more difficult to brush off.
“It can be hard to tell from the outside, especially in the campaign finance area, whether conduct that seems unappealing or unethical may rise to the level of a criminal charge,” said Carrie Cohen, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan. “But it should always be a concern when the Department of Justice is investigating any aspect of your campaign.”