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Since taking office as borough president in 2014, Adams has had designs on the top job at City Hall. And in the intervening years, he has steered hundreds of thousands of dollars into an ethical gray area where charity and self-aggrandizement intermingle — with fundraising practices that have drawn the scrutiny of investigators and government watchdog groups.

The yearslong boost to Adams’ name recognition is now coming in handy as the June 22 Democratic mayoral primary approaches: His campaign strategy relies on besting the competition in key areas of his home borough.

The spending that has boosted the candidate and his causes has come from both his office as borough president, the banners being a highly visible example, and a charity he created called One Brooklyn Fund. Adams controls the nonprofit, which is partially staffed with employees of his office and allowed the use of Brooklyn Borough Hall, a municipal building.

There is precedent in New York for non-profits to exist alongside official government operations. Mayor Bill de Blasio got in hot water over fundraising for the now defunct Campaign for One New York. Former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz had a nonprofit tied to his office that similarly raised eyebrows. And the city’s Department of Education, Law Department and Emergency Management agency, for example, all have affiliated nonprofits that are controlled by public officials.

“We’re excited,” Adams told the Daily News shortly after the city cleared One Brooklyn’s creation in 2014. “The beauty here is we’re not trying to raise money to put on a full-time staff. The donations we’re raising will go directly to the people.”

Not exactly.

The nonprofit, whose budget is typically between $300,000 and $500,000, does plenty of charitable work throughout the year. But money from the organization has also been spent on high-end fundraisers that raised little money, marketing materials that promote Adams’ name and image and awards given out to prominent businesses and constituents — some of whom later donated to his mayoral campaign.

Charities affiliated with elected officials — such as Adams’ predecessor Markowitz — have for years raised fears that they serve as thinly veiled excuses to promote a politician’s name recognition, even as they operate fully within the law.

Since One Brooklyn’s creation in 2014, the organization has put on all manner of community events. It has given away turkeys, coats and school supplies. It organizes luncheons and karaoke contests for seniors and financial literacy events for students, and it connects constituents with social service providers such as citizenship lawyers. It also runs a tourism center in Borough Hall.

“For the past 7.5 years, Brooklyn Borough Hall — The People’s House — has been open to the public to share resources and information around a variety of subjects including health and wellness, cultural diversity, the arts, financial literacy, and services for all constituents,” One Brooklyn board Chair Peter Aschkenasy wrote in a statement.

However, a POLITICO review of state financial disclosures shows that One Brooklyn devotes serious resources to causes that blur the line between uplifting communities and Adams’ public profile.

For three years beginning in 2017, the nonprofit hosted an annual gala at the Brooklyn Museum. The catered affair featured celebrity emcees hailing from Kings County and awards given out to businesses from around the borough. While the event was described as a fundraiser, information provided by the nonprofit show that nearly 70 percent of the money received in 2017 and 2018 went right back into paying for the evenings’ trappings.

“That is totally inappropriate,” said Toni Goodale, a nonprofit and fundraising consultant, who noted that costs for galas and fundraisers should typically run between 30 and 40 percent of total receipts. “There is so much work involved in putting these on. The nonprofit is taking away time that the staff could be devoting toward its mission.”

The 2017 Gala raised more than $90,000 but cost more than $63,500 to put on. The proceeds made up less than 10 percent of One Brooklyn’s total revenue that year.

“Why even do it?” Goodale asked.

One Brooklyn said the gala, in addition to raising money, also honors the contributions of longtime businesses in the borough.

“For many, it was the first time being recognized for their years of dedication to their local neighborhoods, and this was also an occasion for them to network with their fellow small business owners,” Aschkenasy said in a statement.

The annual soirees allow Adams to hold forth from the lectern, give out awards to business owners and prominent community members — a handful of whom later donated to his campaign — and pose for grip-and-grin photos with honorees. It is a formula the charity has often repeated.

Throughout the year, One Brooklyn hosts cultural events at Borough Hall that have included celebrations of Latino, Caribbean and Russian heritage along with Black History month. Registration documents filed with the state show that more than a third of the organization’s time is spent working on these gatherings, the biggest single component of its mission.

One Brooklyn billed the free events, which typically feature a performance and food, as important work highlighting the borough’s diversity. But they also serve as a venue for Adams to curry favor with key constituencies. More than two dozen honorees from Borough Hall events have donated to Adams’ mayoral campaign, according to information provided by One Brooklyn and public records, an indication that the gatherings have helped him make inroads into important voting blocs.

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One Brooklyn also gives out small grants each year to nonprofits including churches, mosques and synagogues around the borough. And around a dozen of those recipients were among the 200 clergy members who endorsed Adams in January, according to the nonprofit’s records.

The nonprofit said political considerations do not factor into its decisions.

“Suggesting that political goodwill is a consideration of the work of [One Brooklyn Fund] is disparaging to [the nonprofit’s] board of directors and the tens of thousands of people it has directly served through its mission,” Aschkenasy, the board chair, said in a statement. He added that all of the organization’s activities are legal and have been authorized by the city’s ethics agency.

The pageantry of Borough Hall cultural events pales in comparison to a pair of popular concert series that the Borough President’s office coordinates each summer in Flatbush and Coney Island featuring major acts including Monica and Wyclef Jean — another legacy of the Markowitz era. Adams appears on advertisements for the free shows, serves as host and ensures a healthy stream of public funding to underwrite the productions.

Financial disclosure documents show several years in which the borough president’s office gave $100,000 to one of the third-party nonprofits that orchestrate the shows, which receive additional funding from the city’s official tourism arm and other agencies. A deputy from Adams’ office also reaches out to Council members each year to ask that they help fund the performances with discretionary budget money, according to multiple lawmakers familiar with the interactions. Between 2014 and the last budget cycle, Council members on friendly terms with Adams, the borough’s Council delegation and the speaker’s office earmarked $775,000 to the nonprofits that put on the concerts, according to budget documents.

“The previous borough president spent the vast majority of discretionary expense funding on the concert series,” Ryan Lynch, a spokesperson for Adams, said in an email. “The current Borough President believes that he could better support communities and neighborhoods through partnerships with his colleagues in the City Council, as colleagues in government often do.”

The exact benefit to Adams’ name recognition and political prospects are hard to quantify. Hosting community events, promoting diversity and letting constituents know who did the legwork is all fair game for elected officials, according to Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York. And it’s difficult to say how much self-promotion is too much.

“It’s very difficult to draw a bright line,” she said. “Which is why I believe there needs to be at a minimum very bright sunshine in terms of disclosures, and that this be recognized as a way of access.”

Because it is affiliated with Adams, One Brooklyn is required to disclose donations topping $5,000 to the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board. The nonprofit also provided POLITICO with a list of businesses who gave below $5,000, but not individuals.

The accounting, though incomplete, has shown the organization has engaged in some questionable fundraising activities.

One Brooklyn charges organizations to use Borough Hall for events that are co-hosted with Adams’ office outside normal business hours, even though the building is public property. Groups wishing to rent out municipal space typically pay the city a set fee to ensure equitable treatment and revenues go straight to the general fund to be doled out through the budget process.

The nonprofit says the cash is diverted to a separate bank account used to pay City Hall for the costs of using the building along with the purchase of certain equipment and furniture. The arrangement between One Brooklyn and the de Blasio administration brought in around $300,000 between 2014 and 2018, again raising concerns among government watchdogs.

“You should not be paying a charity that is under the control of an elected official for the use of a public facility,” Lerner said

Multiple reports indicate that One Brooklyn has also accepted significant money from organizations seeking favor with his office and donors with business before the city, a practice that led to multiple investigations into de Blasio and his affiliated nonprofit, the Campaign for One New York.

The records made available by One Brooklyn Thursday show in 2014, a limited-liability company controlled by Heritage Equity Partners made a donation to Adams’ nonprofit. A year later, the development team applied for a special permit related to a massive office project in Williamsburg, and a year after that Adams recommended the application be approved as part of his role in the land use review process.

Toby Moskovits, head of Heritage Equity Partners, also donated $2,500 to Adams’ borough president reelection campaign and then $320 to his mayoral campaign, according to public filings. Moskovits did not respond to a request for comment.

One Brooklyn said donors are told their contributions will have no bearing on decisions from the borough president’s office.

“The big question for watchdogs is whether donors are attempting to buy influence from an elected official,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany. “That can come in a lot of forms: are they attempting to buy influence by donating to an official’s favorite nonprofit? Or a nonprofit that they control? And this is of course a concern with One Brooklyn.”

Erin Durkin contributed to this report.


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Black Lives Matter thought they had Washington’s ear. Now they feel shut out.

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Now, leading Black activists say those issues aren’t getting the hearing they deserve.

“It was grassroots and base building organizations that put our issues at the forefront. That’s who delivered this win to the administration,” said Amara Enyia, policy director for the Movement for Black Lives. “At minimum, those folks should be given an audience.”

Part of the disconnect may be the cultural gap between activists — for whom justice is an absolute, but attainable ideal — and politicians, who deal with the messy realities of governing, forging compromise, and accepting incremental wins. Many BLM leaders, for instance, pushed to “defund” city police departments, only to find little appetite among lawmakers for what was widely seen as a politically suicidal position.

On Sunday, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) signaled that he was willing to water down qualified immunity, which currently shields officers from civil liability for misdeeds, in order to pass some sort of policing reform legislation.

“Well, I will never sacrifice good on the altar of perfect. I just won’t do that,” Clyburn told CNN. “I just won’t do that. … Sometimes you have to compromise.”

So while, at the outset of the new Congress, movement leaders stressed they wanted to play a role in enacting policy change, and insisted they weren’t interested in empty rhetoric or piecemeal reforms, they’re now reassessing that approach as frustration sets in.

Now, where there was once more momentum behind the push for sweeping systemic change, bureaucratic policy hurdles and political calculations have pushed activists with the Movement for Black Lives back to the sidelines.

While this has forced activists to refocus their efforts, they maintain that their organizing is multi-dimensional. And they’ve amassed a sizable war chest. The Black Lives Matter Global Network, armed with more than $90 million in fundraising following last summer’s protests, has channeled those funds into initiatives and campaigns. One, launched in February, targets police unions and police budgets–efforts that have the most heft at state and local levels.

They’ve also used that funding to publicize their assessment of Joe Biden’s performance as he passed the 100-day mark. A recent advertisement paid for by the Black Lives Matter Global Network, criticized the administration’s handling of police reform. The ad, which aired in Washington, D.C., for a limited time, specifically condemns what they see as Biden’s lack of action on the transfer of military equipment to law enforcement.

“We are the people who elected Biden,” the ad says. “It’s time he started acting like it.”

When asked for comment, a White House official did not specify where talks with movement leaders stand. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly explain the administration’s stance, said there is an “open and ongoing dialogue” between senior White House officials and leaders of the movement as well as with legacy civil rights organizations.

Movement leaders also met with members of Congress early in the planning stages for the Justice in Policing Act last summer and asked for a platform to outline the BREATHE Act, several activists said. However, even those they view as allies on the Hill — including Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), who is spearheading police reform discussions — were unwilling to diverge from the bill’s core tenets.

As members of Congress continue to hash out a bill to pass with enough Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, activists say they have not been included in any of those discussions.

Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and one of the movement’s first lead organizers, said movement leaders have not abandoned their national advocacy work.

She pointed to a number of allies in Congress like Bass with whom she and other leaders have had “critical conversations” in the past about the movement’s role in policymaking.

“One of the things we’re looking at moving forward is having a better relationship [with lawmakers],” Abdullah said. “So rather than lawmakers making laws without the input of a movement that gives traction to them, we want to do a better job of coordinating on the front end.”

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But complicating things is the fact that movement leaders stand vehemently against the Justice in Policing Act, which Congress drafted as a response to their protests. They argue that instead of holding officers accountable, the bill — which passed the House in March — actually gives more funds to law enforcement. Moreover, activists say, police de-escalation training, universal body cameras and data to track use of force, all provisions of the Justice in Policing Act, don’t go far enough.

The bill “requires that police be the fixers of their own problems,” said Karissa Lewis, national field director for the Movement for Black Lives. “And we know that that just has not been a successful strategy.”

Still, the Movement for Black Lives has come out in favor of some national policies that have implications for the work they do on the state level. Activists point to both the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Act as critical to their work. If passed, the bills would curb a number of the provisions in state laws that limit access to the ballot.

Organizers said they were happy to hear Senate Majority Leader ´ say that he would like to pass a major voting rights bill by August, though it’s not clear how he would do so without reforming Senate rules.

And there are activists who are continuing their work locally. A national platform, they say, was never one of their chief goals. Following an unsuccessful effort to reallocate police funds in Minneapolis last summer, activists there say they’re doubling down on their push for more comprehensive public safety plans that give community members more power.

“We know the history of the failure, where we’re expecting [police] to reform themselves,” said D.A. Bullock, a lead organizer with the Minneapolis-based group Reclaim the Block. “We know that’s not possible. We’re looking to a more fundamental change in the way we do public safety.”

Nor do they see Derek Chauvin’s conviction as the final chapter following last year’s organizing against police violence and systemic racism under the umbrella of a “racial reckoning.”

“People are still asking this question of, ‘is anything coming?’ Yes, it’s coming. It’s happening on the local and state level,” said Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party and lead organizer with the Movement for Black Lives.

Still, Mitchell added that he and other lead organizers feel they are “duty bound to ensure that [police reform] happens on the federal level.”

Mitchell called for Biden to issue more executive orders and make full use of the bully pulpit to pressure Congress to act quickly on criminal justice reform as discussions around the Justice in Policing Act seem unlikely to conclude in time for Biden’s May 25 consensus deadline.

Federal legislation, activists argue, should address the root causes of the issue: A system of law enforcement that disproportionately harms communities of color. And that means they’ll continue to push for a public safety overhaul — and lobby those members of Congress willing to hear them out.

“We’re not interested in easy solutions, and we’re not interested in nibbling around the edges,” Mitchell said. “This is an urgent and real crisis for us.”


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Palestinians, Israel trade new rocket fire and airstrikes

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In recent weeks, tension has been soaring in Jerusalem, marked by clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police in the walled Old City, located in east Jerusalem which Israel captured and annexed in the 1967 war.

One of the flashpoints in the Old City has been the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site of Islam and the holiest site of Judaism. Another driver of Palestinian anger has been the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from homes in an east Jerusalem neighborhood by Israeli settlers.

Monday was a long day of anger and deadly violence, laying bare Jerusalem’s deep divisions, even as Israel tried to celebrate its capture of the city’s eastern sector and its sensitive holy sites more than half a century ago. With dozens of rockets flying into Israel throughout the night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with top security officials and warned that the fighting could drag on, despite calls for calm from the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.

Hamas, the militant group ruling the Gaza Strip, fired dozens of rockets Monday evening, setting off air raid sirens as far as Jerusalem. The barrage came after Hamas had given Israel a deadline to withdraw forces from the Al-Aqsa compound.

By Tuesday morning, Hamas and other Gaza militants had fired more than 200 rockets. That included a barrage of six rockets that targeted Jerusalem, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) away. It set off air raid sirens throughout Jerusalem, and explosions could be heard in what was believed to be the first time the city had been targeted since a 2014 war.

There appeared to be some first signs of de-escalation in Jerusalem early Tuesday. Palestinian worshippers performed the dawn prayer at the mosque without confrontations as Israel apparently limited the presence of its police officers around the compound. Amateur videos showed dozens of faithful marching to the mosque and chanting “we sacrifice our blood, soul for Al-Aqsa.”

In Gaza, an Israeli drone strike killed a man in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis early Tuesday, according to local media reports. In another strike, a woman and two men were killed when a missile struck the upper floors of an apartment building in the Shati refugee camp on the edge of Gaza City, according to Gaza Health Ministry and rescue services.

Hamas’ armed wing said it intensified the rocket barrages following the airstrike on the house.

The Israeli military said it had carried out dozens of airstrikes across Gaza overnight, targeting what it said were Hamas military installations and operatives. It said a Hamas tunnel, rocket launchers and at least eight militants had been hit.

Dozens of rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. But one landed near a home on the outskirts of Jerusalem, causing light damage to the structure and sparking a brush fire nearby. In southern Israel, an Israeli man was lightly wounded after a missile struck a vehicle.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “terrorist organizations in Gaza have crossed a red line and attacked us with missiles in the outskirts of Jerusalem.”

He said fighting could continue for some time and that “”whoever attacks us will pay a heavy price,” he said, warning that the fighting could “continue for some time.”

Gaza health officials gave no further breakdowns on the casualties. At least 15 of the 22 deaths in Gaza were attributed to the airstrikes. Seven of the deaths were members of a single family, including three children, who died in a mysterious explosion in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. It was not clear if the blast was caused by an Israeli airstrike or errant rocket. More than 100 Gazans were wounded in the airstrikes, the Health Ministry said.

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In a statement issued early Tuesday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the rocket attacks would continue until Israel stops “all scenes of terrorism and aggression in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque.”

Tensions at the site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, have triggered repeated bouts of violence in the past.

In Monday’s unrest, Israeli police fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets in clashes with stone-throwing Palestinians at the compound.

More than a dozen tear gas canisters and stun grenades landed in the mosque as police and protesters faced off inside the walled compound that surrounds it, said an Associated Press photographer at the scene. Smoke rose in front of the mosque and the golden-domed shrine on the site, and rocks littered the nearby plaza. Inside one area of the compound, shoes and debris lay scattered over ornate carpets.

Over 600 Palestinians were hurt in Jerusalem alone, including more than 400 who required care at hospitals and clinics, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Palestinians and police reported renewed clashes late Monday. Israeli police also reported unrest in northern Israel, where Arab protesters burned tires and threw stones and fireworks at security forces. Police said 46 people were arrested.

Monday’s confrontations came after weeks of almost nightly clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police in the Old City of Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The month tends to be a time of heightened religious sensitivities.

Most recently, the tensions have been fueled by the planned eviction of dozens of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, where Israeli settlers have waged a lengthy legal battle to take over properties.

Israel’s Supreme Court postponed a key ruling Monday in the case, citing the “circumstances.”

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned “in the strongest terms” the rocket fire on Israel and called on all sides to calm the situation.

“More broadly, we’re deeply concerned about the situation in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including violent confrontations in Jerusalem,” he said. He said the U.S. would remain “fully engaged” and praised steps by Israel to cool things down, including the court delay in the eviction case.

In an apparent attempt to avoid further confrontation, Israeli authorities changed the planned route of a march by thousands of flag-waving nationalist Jews through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City to mark Jerusalem Day.

The annual festival is meant to celebrate Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. But it is widely seen as a provocation because the route goes through the heart of Palestinian areas.


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Vatican warns U.S. bishops about rebuking Biden, other Catholic pols

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Ladaria, in his letter, said any new policy “requires that dialogue occurs in two stages: first among the bishops themselves, and then between bishops and Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions.”

Even then, Ladaria advised, the bishops should seek unanimous support within their ranks for any national policy, lest it become “a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger church in the United States.”

Ladaria made several other points that could complicate the plans of bishops pressing for tough action:

— He said any new statement should not be limited to Catholic political leaders but broadened to encompass all churchgoing Catholics in regard to their worthiness to receive Communion.

— He questioned the USCCB policy identifying abortion as “the preeminent” moral issue, saying it would be misleading if any new document “were to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest accountability on the part of Catholics.”

— He said that if the U.S. bishops pursue a new policy, they should confer with bishops’ conferences in other countries “both to learn from one another and to preserve unity in the universal church.”

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— He said any new policy could not override the authority of individual bishops to make decisions on who can receive Communion in their dioceses. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., has made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches in the archdiocese.

Among the leaders of the campaign to rebuke Biden is Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, who recently issued a pastoral letter arguing that Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should not receive Communion. A few days later, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego published an essay saying such an initiative “will bring tremendously destructive consequences.”

Ladaria’s letter was dated May 7. It was first reported Monday by Catholic News Service and the Jesuit magazine America.


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