With five weeks to go until the primary, two of the leading mayoral candidates, Andrew Yang and Eric Adams, are attacking each other over fundraising practices that each says potentially violate the city’s campaign finance rules.
The allegations come on the heels of a NY Times story that raised questions about Adams’s relationship with donors over the years as well as his use of a nonprofit that allows individuals to support his campaign without spending limits. The Times reported that in several cases Adams “appears to have violated city campaign-finance law” by failing to report certain donors, such as developers, who had business before the city.
During a press conference on Tuesday in Battery Park, Yang accused Adams of breaking the city’s public financing rules as a result of those omissions.
“This is in direct violation [and] in opposition of the entire purpose of the donor matching program,” Yang said. “The purpose of the donor matching program is to try and create a level playing field between the people of New York City and special interests. It is not to augment the resources available to special interests.”
One of Yang’s campaign managers, Chris Coffey, sent a letter on Monday to the executive director of the city’s Campaign Finance Board (CFB) demanding an investigation into Adams’s fundraising.
The statements marked the first time that Yang, who has tried to promote himself as a positive candidate, has directly criticized one of his opponents, another sign that the race is intensifying with less than four weeks until early voting begins. Both Adams and Yang have consistently polled at the top, with Adams overtaking Yang in a recent Emerson poll released late Monday.
Two other rivals in the race, Maya Wiley and Scott Stringer, also criticized Adams following the Times story. Wiley suggested that she may also request the CFB to launch an inquiry.
Adams has disputed the claims suggested in the Times story and argued that he is being unfairly scrutinized as a Black candidate. According to the NY Times, Adams’s campaign suggested that some of the paperwork for his filings may have fallen through the cracks.
At his own press conference on Tuesday, Adams responded to Yang’s charges by saying that he was sending his own letter to the Campaign Finance Board to allege fundraising improprieties made by his opponent during his presidential run, citing the use of his campaign to buy nearly $240,000 worth of copies of one of Yang’s books and donations by a nonprofit called Humanity Forward last year that were filed with the Federal Election Commission.
“So we’re going to be sending up a letter to the CFB to look at his actions and how his nonprofit is also continuing to, we believe, violate the CFB rules on how they are advertising on his behalf,” Adams said. Around 3:30 p.m., his campaign said they submitted the complaint to the CFB, requesting an investigation.
The charges suggest the difficulty in rooting out the role of special interests and dark money in elections despite changes in public financing rules. Money from influential donors has flooded the race through super PACS, which are benefitting all of the top tier candidates.
All but one of the eight leading candidates—former CitiGroup executive Ray McGuire—are participating in the city’s generous matching funds program, which is seeking to level the playing field by rewarding campaigns that are supported by smaller donors. Both Adams and Yang have raised considerable amounts of money using public financing: Adams has amassed nearly $8 million, while Yang has raised nearly $6 million.
Adams has called for complete public financing of campaigns, a sentiment he reiterated on Tuesday. “Let’s take all of this money out of the system,” he said. “We should not have money in politics. It should be a public finance system.”
Hours later, Bloomberg reported that four hedge fund managers contributed a total of $2 million to a super PAC for Adams. Other deep-pocketed donors helping candidates in the race include billionaire libertarian Jeff Yass, who has given $500,000 to a Yang super PAC. On Sunday, megadonor George Soros said he would give $500,000 to a Wiley super PAC after she was endorsed by Congressman Hakeem Jeffries.
Brigid Bergin and David Cruz contributed reporting.