Mayor Adams Launches Legal Defense Fund in Response to FBI Investigation into CampaignNovember 18, 2023
Mayor Adams has created a legal defense trust in response to the FBI probe into his 2021 campaign finances. The fund will allow Adams to raise money to cover legal expenses “in connection with inquiries by the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (‘SDNY’) related to the operations of the Eric Adams 2021 mayoral campaign committee,” according to an agreement posted with the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board. It’s unclear when Adams started the fund, but the COIB site shows a letter dated Nov. 13 by the city’s Corporation Counsel acknowledging the establishment of the fund, and stating that the city’s lawyers will not be involved with Adams’ legal matter. Under the law, Adams is allowed to accept contributions of up to $5,000 per person for the fund. He won’t be allowed to collect monies from any city employees, those on the city’s Doing Business Database, or those engaged in current business with the city. Contributors must also agree that their contribution will not “affect any future business dealings” with the city. Adams must also report all of his contributions to the board. Adams has not been accused of wrongdoing in the sprawling inquiry that became known early this month when FBI agents raided the Brooklyn home of the mayor’s prolific fundraiser. The feds are investigating allegations Adams’ campaign colluded with the Turkish government to receive illegal foreign campaign donations through straw donors. Among those donors under investigation is the Brooklyn-based KSK Construction, whose executives had donated to Adams’ campaign in May 2021. The FBI is also examining Adams outreach to the head of the FDNY to look into building safety violations that were preventing the Turkish government from opening its consulate in Manhattan. Adams has confirmed he reached out to former FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro, but he said the outreach was part of his normal duties as an elected official. Days after the Nov. 2 raid, Adams’ cell phones were confiscated and returned by the FBI as part of the inquiry. Adams has since retained the legal services of WilmerHale, with his former Chief Counsel Brendan McGuire and Boyd Johnson representing him. Peter Aschkenasy, an Adams ally who chairs the One Brooklyn Fund nonprofit aimed at promoting the borough’s culture, will serve as the trust’s treasurer. Among those formerly employed through the One Brooklyn Fund was Rana Abbassova, an aide to Adams whose cell phones were taken and home, according to the New York Times, has her home raided by the FBI as part of the investigation. Aschkenasy told Politico he will simply serve as a treasurer for the trust and will not be involved with fundraising. The law firm Pitta LLP — one of its partners, Vito Pitta, is Adams’ campaign compliance attorney — will also be involved with managing the trust.