Mayor Eric Adam has established a legal defense fund in response to a federal investigation scrutinizing his 2021 campaign activities.
The fund, which is regulated by the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board, permits Adams to receive contributions beyond the regular campaign donations.
The fund, known as the “Eric Adams Legal Defense Trust,” is designed to cover the legal costs associated with the investigations by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York into the workings of Adams’ mayoral campaign.
According to a signed affidavit by Adams on Wednesday, November 15th, “The Eric Adams Legal Defense Trust is necessitated by, and intended to defray, legal expenses in connection with the inquiries by the office of United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York related to the operations of the Eric Adams 2021 mayoral campaign committee.”
This fund allows Adams to accept individual donations of up to $5,000 but requires disclosure of donor details for contributions over $100 every quarter.
Contributions from government subordinates or those engaged in business with the city are prohibited.
The probe is centered on potential collusion between Adams’ campaign and the Turkish government, along with alleged acceptance of unlawful contributions from Turkish nationals through intermediaries.
While there have been FBI raids and interviews, no formal charges have surfaced.
Previously, Adams had suggested using campaign funds for legal services from the private firm WilmerHale, but now he seems to be soliciting financial support from new donors.
Peter Aschkenasy, a trustee of the fund and a long-standing acquaintance of Adams from his time as Brooklyn Borough President, is responsible for overseeing the trust but not for raising funds.
Pitta LLP, the law firm that managed campaign finance compliance for Adams’ campaign, is also involved in forming the trust.
Vito Pitta, the firm’s co-managing partner, emphasized the necessity of this move: “After consultation with the Campaign Finance Board and the Conflicts of Interest Board, it was determined that a trust should be created for any legal expenses.”
A letter from Sylvia Hinds-Radix, Mayor Adams’ corporation counsel, clarifies that the establishment of this fund precludes her office from representing Adams in this matter.
The legal defense fund framework was set by the New York City Council in 2019, aimed at allowing officials to manage legal costs without breaching the city’s $50 gift limit designed to prevent corruption.