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Animal rights group accuses Andrew Yang of defamation, spreading ‘conspiracies’

A politically powerful Manhattan law firm sent a cease and desist letter to Andrew Yang Thursday, warning the mayoral candidate to stop spreading “non-existent conspiracies” about the alleged ties between current Mayor Bill de Blasio and unnamed “allies” to an animal rights group running attack ads [1]against Yang.

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“I write as longtime counsel for New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets (“NYCLASS”) regarding recent public statements[2] that you and your campaign operatives have made about my client that are false and defamatory,” Gibson Dunn partner Akiva Shapiro wrote to Yang.

The anti-horse carriage group that spent nearly $1 million[3] backing Bill de Blasio is now funding ads attacking Yang. NYCLASS launched six-figures worth of TV and digital spots Monday targeting Yang’s positions on animal rights, raising taxes on the rich, and the $15 minimum wage. Its cofounders include former de Blasio supporters Steve Nislick and Wendy Neu.

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Anti-horse carriage group New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets has been launching attack ads on Andrew Yang's views on animal rights.
Anti-horse carriage group New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets has been launching attack ads on Andrew Yang’s views on animal rights.
John Lamparski/Getty Images
A New York Deserves Better PAC ad targeting mayoral candidate Andrew Yang.
A New York Deserves Better PAC ad targeting mayoral candidate Andrew Yang.
New York Deserves Better PAC

NYCLASS had to pay a $10,000 fine[4] to a state watchdog in 2015 to settle ethics violations for failing to register as a lobbyist and file disclosure forms while petitioning de Blasio on issues relating to horse carriages after he was elected mayor.

Yang and his campaign reps responded to the ads by saying the group is “very, very tightly aligned with Mayor de Blasio” who is working with “allies” to keep Yang from winning the Democratic mayoral primary on June 22 and “cutting deals” with chief rivals in the race.

Two of NYCLASS's co-founders are former de Blasio supporters Steve Nislick and Wendy Neu.
Two of NYCLASS’s co-founders are former de Blasio supporters Steve Nislick and Wendy Neu.
FilmMagic

Yang has repeatedly said that de Blasio is secretly working with his chief rival Eric Adams to thwart the former NYPD captain’s campaign. Adams has been leading[5] the crowded field in recent polls while Yang has slipped from the top of the crowded Democratic mayoral primary field.

Shapiro called Yang’s remarks “false and absurd,” adding that no “such deals exist or were ever cut.”

“NYCLASS simply believes that you are the wrong choice for mayor,” Shapiro wrote.

Bill de Blasio seen talking to Eric Adams in NYC.
Andrew Yang has claimed that Eric Adams (right) has been working with Bill de Blasio in secret.
Paul Martinka

“That engaged New Yorkers are exercising their free speech rights by voicing their concerns about you and your campaign is part of the political process.

“That you and your campaign have responded with this false narrative, however, is inexcusable and beyond the pale. In short, you and your campaign are spinning this yarn out of whole cloth,” Shapiro charged.   

Shapiro’s firm represents prominent litigants in cases against the city, including recent legal battles by Manhattan residents against Mayor de Blasio over homeless shelters. Shapiro’s colleague Randy Mastro[6] was chief of staff to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Akiva Shapiro said NYCLASS believes Andrew Yang is the "wrong choice for mayor."
Akiva Shapiro said NYCLASS believes Andrew Yang is the “wrong choice for mayor.”
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP

A Yang spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.

References

  1. ^ running attack ads (nypost.com)
  2. ^ recent public statements (nypost.com)
  3. ^ nearly $1 million (nypost.com)
  4. ^ a $10,000 fine (jcope.ny.gov)
  5. ^ has been leading (nypost.com)
  6. ^ colleague Randy Mastro (nypost.com)

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