New York City Mayor Eric Adams has raised more than half a million dollars for his legal defense fund as federal investigators continue a public corruption investigation into his 2021 campaign, the fund told CNN on Monday.
“The Eric Adams Legal Defense Trust has drawn strong support in a short amount of time, raising more than $650,000 since it was formed just two months ago,” Vito Pitta, counsel to the fund, told CNN. The fund is required to disclose its first round of donations to the city’s Conflict of Interest Board by Tuesday.
City employees are allowed to set up legal defense funds to raise money to pay for certain legal bills and expenses connected with their employment, according to guidance posted by the board.
The New York Democrat’s legal defense fund will be required to report the names of all donors who give more than $100 during each reporting period, according to the board’s guidance.
The investigation into Adams is focused on campaign money, possible favors and foreign influence, according to officials briefed on the probe. Although he has not been accused of any wrongdoing, Adams secured private legal representation at the firm WilmerHale shortly after it was reported that his campaign was under the scrutiny of federal investigators.
CNN has reached out to WilmerHale and attorneys for Adams for comment.
The mayor launched the legal defense fund in November, weeks after the home of his chief fundraiser in his 2021 mayoral campaign was targeted in a raid by the FBI.
An affidavit signed by Adams said the Eric Adams Legal Defense Trust is “necessitated by and intended to defray legal expenses in connection with the inquiries by the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York related to the operations of the Adams 2021 mayoral campaign committee.”
Shortly after the raid at the fundraiser’s home, agents also seized the mayor’s electronic devices, including his cell phones and iPad.
Law enforcement officials familiar with the search warrants told CNN the investigators were seeking evidence that foreign nationals – who are barred from making campaign contributions – may have “bundled” donations by getting US citizens of Turkish origin to act as “straw contributors.” The alleged scheme would have allowed money coming from foreign business entities to be masqueraded as donations from American citizens.
“We don’t do the straw donors, we don’t do quid pro quo – we follow the law, I’m very clear on that,” Adams said in November.
Some of the allegations being investigated involve a Brooklyn-based construction company owned by a Turkish American businessman who sources said gathered employees and others to write checks to the Adams campaign and then allegedly paid the donors back in full, skirting campaign finance laws.
Adams has a long and proud relationship with the Turkish American community of New York City, and he has made a half a dozen trips to Turkey.
Adams has said his campaign complied with all legal requirements and is cooperating with the investigation.
CNN’s John Miller, Mark Morales, Celina Tebor and Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.
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