The New York City Campaign Finance Board is investigating suspicious donations made to the campaign of New York City Council candidate Amber Adler, which is being run by prominent Democratic consulting firm North Shore Strategies. Adler, the Democratic nominee for Council District 48 in southern Brooklyn, is challenging Republican Council Member Inna Vernikov.
Three people connected to North Shore Strategies, the consulting firm that Adler hired to manage her campaign, told City & State that $100 cash donations were made to the campaign in their names but that they never made such donations. The three people, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution or to maintain their privacy in the matter, said they found out about the donations when the Campaign Finance Board contacted them to confirm they made the donations. They said the Campaign Finance Board sent them copies of contribution cards that they had supposedly signed, which contained forged signatures.
Adler told City & State that she had no involvement in any potential fraud related to the suspicious donations to her campaign.
A spokesperson for the Campaign Finance Board declined to comment on the investigation. But on Thursday, the Campaign Finance Board informed Adler that it had denied her campaign matching funds due to multiple suspicious cash donations.
“The Campaign claimed cash contributions for match with Disclosure Statement #9 that shared common handwriting on the contribution cards,” the Campaign Finance Board wrote in the notice, which Adler shared with City & State. “All but one of these contributions was for $100 and most were made by contributors who were reported as students or unemployed. Based on the patterns of handwriting, CFB staff attempted to contact cash contributors. Five contributors denied making their reported contributions and each of them stated that the signature on the contribution card was not their own. All five denials were current or former employees of North Shore Strategies, the Campaign’s general consultant and therefore an agent of the Campaign.”
“The scale of these falsified contributions and the involvement of the Campaign’s general consultant and staff suggests that the Campaign’s contribution reporting cannot be relied upon,” the notice concluded. It said the investigation is “continuing” and that the “preliminary findings are not a final determination.”
A review of Adler’s donations revealed at least eight donations made in the names of people with direct or indirect connections to North Shore Strategies. All but one of the donations were made within a few days of each other last month. Like the contributions from the two people who spoke to City & State, most were for $100 and listed the donor’s occupation as “unemployed.”
North Shore Strategies co-founder Brendan Klein told City & State that the firm was recently made aware of improper donations made under the names of people tied to his firm. He blamed a rogue contractor who had served as Adler’s campaign manager and said that the firm had fired the employee. “Immediately upon learning that the Adler campaign had improperly attributed donations to straw donors, we notified the Campaign Finance Board and terminated our relationship with the campaign manager and the Adler campaign,” Klein said in a statement. “We are committed to the integrity of New York City’s campaign finance system and are already assisting the CFB in its investigation.”
The fired contractor declined to comment on the record.