(JTA) — A Bill de Blasio donor, who is a felon turned government witness, said his donations of $160,000 to the election campaign of the mayor of New York gave him access and input into municipal nominations.
Jona Rechnitz, 34, who in March pleaded guilty to making contributions in exchange for advantageous treatment from government officials, testified Thursday at Manhattan District court house in the bribery trial of former city corrections-union chief Norman Seabrook, the New York Post reported.
Rechnitz is accused of bribing Seabrook to get him to invest $20 million in union pension money in a hedge fund tied to one of Rechnitz’s friends, Murray Huberfeld. Rechnitz and Huberfeld are both Jewish. The actions attributed to them and Seabrook are part of a larger scandal exposed last year, involving high-ranking New York police officers who are accused of selling various services to businessmen.
When questioned about his ties to the administration, Rechnitz said during the 2013 campaign that the he and de Blasio spoke of “who he should be appointing for certain positions.” De Blasio’s spokesperson flatly denied Rechnitz’s claims.
After the elections, Rechnitz continued to remain in contact with de Blasio, attending his events and making donations to various projects led by the mayor, he said. And Rechnitz would request favors from de Blasio fund-raiser Ross Offinger, he added.
One favor involved a friend’s massive water bill, he said. Another concerned violations Rechnitz faced for a tenant subletting a residence on Airbnb.
“I always gave money, as long as I was seeing him produce results,” Rechnitz said of Offinger. “Whenever we would call him for access or for a favor, we were getting the response that we expected and the results we were expecting.”
Mayoral spokesman Eric Phillips dismissed the felon’s claims. “These are nothing but reheated, repackaged accusations that have been extensively reviewed and passed on by authorities at multiple levels,’’ Phillips told the Post. “The administration has never and will never make government decisions based on campaign contributions.”