De Blasio donor claims he received favors, control for illicit $160,000 contribution

JTA

(JTA) — A Bill De Blasio donor, who is a felon turned government witness, said his donations of $160,000 to the mayor’s campaign gave him access and control over municipal nominations.

Jona Rechnitz, 34, who in March pleaded guilty to making contributions in exchange for advantageous treatment from government officials, said this on Thursday at Manhattan District court house while testifying in the bribery trial of former city correction-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 he had agreed with the mayor during the 2013 campaign that, “if he wins, who he should be appointing for certain positions,” Rechnitz said of the mayor, who is running for re-election next month. De Blasio’s spokesperson flatly denied Rechnitz’s claims.

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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.”

Rechnitz also admitted to using straw donors, which is illegal, to circumvent the $4,950 cap on contributions from any single donor.

“I worked with straw donors,” he said. “A couple of people in my office, I had them write checks, because I wasn’t allowed to give more than $4,950. And I reimbursed them for those donations.”

Rechnitz also said that he paid thousands of dollars to buy a watch for Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, in exchange for being named police chaplains even though he is not a rabbi, Rechnitz said. Jeremy Reichberg, a friend of Rechnitz who was also implicated in the scandal involving senior police officer, was also named police chaplain, Rechnitz said.

Rechnitz’s firm, JSR Capital, donated $15,000 to ­Astorino’s campaign in June 2013.

A spokesperson for Astorino called Rechnitz’s testimony “total contrived nonsense,” adding that the executive bought the watch himself, and he’s “never been accused of any wrongdoing.”

Astorino “has the credit-card receipt to prove it, which he provided to the authorities prosecuting Mr. Rechnitz,” the spokesman told the Post.

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