June 21, 2024
Finance

Adams fundraiser whose home was raided by FBI had odd financial arrangement with campaign


Typically, political fundraisers make a flat rate on New York City mayoral races. Going with the type of deal Suggs negotiated for herself risks paying more than the going rate, according to John Kaehny of government reform group Reinvent Albany.

“It’s unusual — if you’re going to give a consultant that much, it’s all money that is not being spent on the actual election of the mayor,” Kaehny said, referring to phone banks or door-knocking. “You don’t see [Suggs’ arrangement] that much. They’re just not in the culture of New York City and state fundraising.”

Revelations of the odd arrangement add another layer of intrigue to Adams’ political operation.

Federal prosecutors are investigating the mayor’s successful 2021 campaign for potential collusion with the Turkish government and accepting prohibited contributions from foreign nationals via a Brooklyn-based Turkish construction company. As part of that probe, FBI agents raided Suggs’ Brooklyn house Nov. 2 and
seized electronic devices
and materials that appeared to pertain to the campaign.

No one has been charged in the investigation.

Vito Pitta, the campaign’s compliance attorney, told POLITICO that Suggs inked a contract in early 2022 that earned her 10 percent of funds raised. Some of that cash went toward others working for her firm, Suggs Solutions.

Pitta declined to answer further questions about the arrangement, but noted Suggs worked on data entry and assisted with processing the campaign filings.

“Ms. Suggs helped raise a record amount of support for the campaign, and she had been compensated fairly for her hard work,” he said in a statement.

Commission contracts like the one inked between Suggs and Adams’ campaign were once common, according to Basil Smikle Jr., former head of the New York State Democratic Party. But they have since fallen out of fashion — in part because they can make life unpredictable for the fundraiser.

“If it’s a long-haul campaign, there’s a chance you may get a lot upfront,” said Smikle, who worked for a rival mayoral campaign in 2021. “But it will start to dwindle toward the end, and you might want to make sure your salary is not dependent on a bad poll or a bad month.”

Suggs payments were erratic and doled out in seemingly arbitrary amounts, with more than two-thirds coming in the last six months of 2023, according to records from the regulatory Campaign Finance Board. Averaged out over her nearly two-year stint, her compensation comes out to around $14,000 a month — putting it at the high end for experienced fundraisers.

One Democratic operative, who was granted anonymity to discuss someone else’s campaign strategy, said a commission-style arrangement might be appropriate for a short job or a financially risky political action committee — but not a mayoral race where flat fees are the norm.

Another consultant granted anonymity for similar reasons said such an arrangement could end up providing perverse incentives to the fundraiser, who might want to have the candidate spend more time with donors instead of voters in the later stages of a race.

The full scope of Suggs’ compensation became clear Tuesday evening, when the CFB released Adams’ fundraising records for the latter half of 2023. Suggs received her last payment of $63,967 Nov. 1.

Suggs enjoys a close relationship to Adams and his inner circle, and the mayor’s chief adviser Ingrid Lewis-Martin claims her as her goddaughter. Suggs also worked for an Adams-aligned PAC called Striving for a Better New York.

In the wake of the FBI raid,
Adams praised her
as an essential component of his reelection effort.

“I feel confidence in her integrity and how hard she works,” he said in November.



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