A federal investigation into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign fund-raising has zeroed in on whether donations were exchanged for beneficial city action in about a half-dozen cases, according to people with knowledge of the inquiry.
The matters under scrutiny, the people said, involve, among others, a company whose soundstages are used to film television shows such as “The Good Wife” and “Blue Bloods” that wanted to expand its operations, and that depends on city permits; those connected to a lucrative development deal on the site of a former hospital that needed city approvals; a popular restaurant and wedding site that was negotiating a new lease with the city; and a garbage bag company seeking a city contract.
Some of the earliest and most generous donors to the Campaign for One New York are among those whose contributions — along with their actions and those of the mayor and members of his administration and campaign staff — are under scrutiny, several people with knowledge of the inquiry said.
The first two donations to the group, made on Jan. 24, 2014, just weeks after Mr. de Blasio was sworn in, were for $25,000 each and came from Broadway Stages, the soundstage company seeking to expand, and the company’s president, Gina Argento.
By then, Ms. Argento and her company were well known to the mayor. She was the second-largest bundler of contributions for his 2013 run — city records show she brought in over $100,000 for the campaign and transition — and even spent $250 to rent the costumes that Mr. de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, wore at a 2014 Halloween party for children at Gracie Mansion. (The company said it also paid for costumes for more than 100 children from homeless shelters who attended the party.)
One of Ms. Argento’s companies also gave $10,000 to the Putnam County Democratic Committee in October 2014, when the mayor was urging his donors to support Democratic efforts to wrest control of the State Senate.
Broadway Stages also gave $35,000 to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC, a charity that is led by Ms. McCray. Ms. Argento served on the group’s advisory board until July.
John J. Ciafone, a lawyer who is married to Ms. Argento and represents her and Broadway Stages, would not confirm the existence of a federal inquiry, but said that neither she nor the company had engaged in wrongdoing. Neither, he said, had sought help from the administration for Broadway Stages’ expansion plans, which include new soundstages in Brooklyn and on Staten Island, in exchange for its contributions.
“Broadway Stages and Gina Argento has not gotten a penny from the city for any of these projects — not a penny!” he said.
Mr. Ciafone suggested that his wife and the company had been pressured to donate. Their business, he said, relied directly on the discretion of the mayor’s office, which issues film permits from the film commissioner.
“They put a lot of pressure on people like Broadway Stages and I’m sure the other film people to give money to the mayor, to give money to C.O.N.Y.,” he said, referring to the mayor’s nonprofit.
Mr. Ciafone said there could be “repercussions in terms of not contributing,” adding, “People don’t understand that.”
Mr. Ciafone said the pressure had not come from Mr. de Blasio himself, but rather “from several people — fund-raisers, staff fund-raisers, several people on behalf of the mayor” whom he could not name.
He also denied suggestions that Ms. Argento had engaged in a so-called straw donor scheme, saying Mr. de Blasio’s campaign had attributed donors to her whom he said she had not solicited.