Campaign Finance

De Blasio Says Donor Who Claimed Money Bought Access Is a ‘Liar’

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Mr. Rechnitz donated directly to Mr. de Blasio’s campaign and bundled more than $40,000 from other contributors. After Mr. de Blasio became mayor, Mr. Rechnitz donated $50,000 to a nonprofit group the mayor had formed to advance his agenda and made a donation of $102,300 — he said it was done at Mr. de Blasio’s personal request — to help elect Democrats to the State Senate.

In return, Mr. Rechnitz said in court, he got access to the mayor and could ask for favors, including being named to an inaugural committee and helping a friend resolve a water billing issue.

“You have heard a lot of tales the last few days,” Mr. de Blasio said on Saturday at a news conference on a Brooklyn sidewalk after making a campaign appearance at a synagogue. “Jona Rechnitz has had his turn. Now it’s my turn to tell you the truth. Jona Rechnitz is a liar and a felon. It’s as simple as that.”

A day earlier, Mr. de Blasio refused to speak to reporters at two public events, walking away as they shouted questions about his dealings with Mr. Rechnitz. On Saturday — when the press corps that regularly covers the mayor and is most knowledgeable about pay-to-play accusations would be unlikely to attend — his office sent a notice at 10:16 a.m., announcing that he would hold a news conference at 11:45 a.m.

On Saturday, Mr. de Blasio said he met Mr. Rechnitz after winning the Democratic primary in 2013, when Mr. Rechnitz began donating to his campaign.

But Mr. de Blasio was vague about many details and claimed not to remember important interactions.

“I remember a handful of times being in person with him and I remember a handful of times on the phone,” he said. “I really can’t give you an exact number, but nothing like once a week.”

Mr. de Blasio called Mr. Rechnitz “a horrible human being.”

“This is not someone that I ever knew well or was close to,” Mr. de Blasio said. “He is exaggerating in many, many ways.”

Mr. Rechnitz testified on Friday that Mr. de Blasio had asked him at one point to appeal to Mr. Seabrook to tamp down his criticism of the correction commissioner, who at the time was Joseph Ponte.

“I have no memory of that at all,” Mr. de Blasio said.

Prosecutors in the trial showed an email, sent to the mayor’s personal email address, in which Mr. Rechnitz reported to the mayor that Mr. Seabrook was “under control.”

“I don’t remember that email,” Mr. de Blasio said on Saturday.

Mr. Rechnitz also testified that he had a close relationship with Ross Offinger, a fund-raiser for Mr. de Blasio’s campaign. He said that Mr. Offinger arranged for Mr. de Blasio to visit Mr. Rechnitz at his office, and that during the visit Mr. de Blasio gave Mr. Rechnitz his personal email address and cellphone number.

“I don’t remember the details but I can remember the broad strokes,” Mr. de Blasio said on Saturday. “At some point, I think it was Ross, said, ‘Here’s someone who says they want to help us,’ and then it proceeded from there. But I don’t remember the details.”

Mr. de Blasio said he did not give special treatment to donors, adding that voters did not care about accusations that he traded favors for campaign contributions.

“The fact that a convicted felon is now trying to besmirch me, no one’s going to fall for that,” he said.

Asked to provide a full accounting of his contacts with Mr. Rechnitz, Mr. de Blasio refused.

“You always want everything and I’m not going to give it to you,” he said.

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Wendy Pettit

Wendy Pettit is a writer for NYT and writes for other publications on her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and her dog Zuko.

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