For the second time in as many days, the race to succeed Councilman Bill DeBlasio has turned into a vicious, mud bath between rivals Josh Skaller and Brad Lander — this time as the two leading candidates exchanged accusations of illicit campaign spending all day long on Tuesday.
Skaller opened the hostilities, denouncing Lander for his ties to the Working Families Party and its offshoot, a for-profit company called Data and Field Services. In a small part of an emerging, citywide scandal, first reported by City Hall, a political newspaper, Lander, like other WFP-endorsed candidates, allegedly received significantly more field assistance from the party via that sister organization than what he and the other pols disclosed in their filings with the Campaign Finance Board.
“Lander has allowed his Council campaign to be propped up by unethical and possibly illegal under-the-table funds,” Skaller said in a statement. “Lander has abused the public’s trust and the evidence of an unholy relationship with the Working Families Party is quite plentiful.”
Recent forms show Lander paid $7,300 to Data and Field Services for “consulting” work, an amount that Skaller says is far below the true value of the company’s street campaigning for the candidate, who is one of five men hoping to represent a Council district that includes parts of Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, the Columbia Street Waterfront District, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington and Borough Park.
The Campaign Finance Board has not found any wrongdoing by Lander, though it said that it is monitoring for illegal “coordination” between candidates and outside groups, which are making their impact felt in other races, such as DeBlasio’s quest for public advocate.
Lander got back to The Brooklyn Paper seconds before its incorruptible deadline, saying that he hired two full-time staffers for his campaign from Data and Field Services, and has another contract for “voter contact and canvassing.”
He said he has been involved with the Working Families Party for “about 10 years,” back to the party’s founding.
“I’m proud to have the Working Families Party endorsement and I think Data and Field Services does a good job at what it does.”
He denied that his $7,300 payment was far below the actual value of the work done by the two campaign staffers.
Earlier this week, he went further with City Hall, saying that Data and Field Services “did play a small coordination role in petitioning.”
He added that his payments to the company are “in compliance with relevant CFB guidelines.”
The Working Families Party said that the Lander’s contract with Data and Field Services has been properly filed and covers the full extent of its work for its favored candidate, the former director of the Pratt Center for Community Development.
Hours after Skaller’s haymaker, Lander retaliated with accusations that Skaller does not pay rent for a campaign office on Eighth Avenue and has not reported it as an “in-kind” contribution, which would be required in such a rent-free arrangement.
“Campaign offices traditionally account for a substantial percentage of a campaign’s expenditures, yet there is no disclosure of expenditure for office space, nor an in-kind donation on his campaign finance report,” Lander said in an e-mailed statement. “The failure to report the office is apparently an attempt to evade the Campaign Finance Board’s tight expenditure limits.”
The Skaller camp immediately filed a rebuttal, saying that the Campaign Finance Board visited the site in June, and is still determining how the campaign should account for the office space in its public disclosure documents.
The board may rule that back rent is owed or that the office should be counted as an in-kind campaign contribution from the landlord.
Tuesday’s war of words between Skaller and Lander comes shortly after another controversy pitted the two adversaries squarely against one another — without the involvement of the three other men in the Democratic primary race: John Heyer, Bob Zuckerman and Gary Reilly.
In that dust-up, Skaller’s wife, pregnant at the time, accused Lander and his supporters of running a negative campaign that criticized her husband for sending their special needs son to private school, instead opting for a public school education.
The Democratic primary election is Tuesday, Sept. 15. For prior stories on this race, visit www.boropolitics.com, where such things are aggregated nicely.