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Morning Spew

Are You Even a Power Couple If You’re Not Somehow Involved in a Straw Donor Scheme

And some extremely ethical links for your Friday.

9:34 AM EDT on July 21, 2023

Dominos on a soggy black card table, on a NYC sidewalk.

(Hell Gate)

Earlier this week, more details emerged around the straw donor scheme in which at least one fervent supporter of Eric Adams (allegedly) illegally gamed the City's public financing system to throw more cash to Adams's mayoral campaign, all in an effort to garner political capital. The New York Daily News got their hands on a court filing that revealed the identity of the Adams campaign staffer, or "Campaign-Representative-1," who worked with Adams's friend and now defendant, Dwayne Montgomery, to throw a fundraising event—Rachel Atcheson.   

Atcheson hasn't been accused of any wrongdoing, but the filing reveals that she, per the Daily News, "had contact in August 2020 with Montgomery, a former NYPD inspector who served as the ringleader in the alleged scheme." (As we noted in earlier coverage, Montgomery and Adams go way back, at least to the time when they were both in the NYPD.) 

The Daily News story doesn't really provide all that much detail on Atcheson, only briefly noting that she's currently the mayor's deputy director of food policy. But in the Hell Gate Slack, our spidey senses tingled, as she had appeared on our radar earlier this year due to her, uh, creatively decorated apartment:

What is happening? (Twitter)

According to her LinkedIn profile, Atcheson has worked for Adams since 2018, first when he was Brooklyn borough president, then on his campaign as a "constituencies organizer." When Adams took office in January 2022, she came along, first as one of his senior assistants, then as a special advisor to then-chief of staff Frank Carone, who departed earlier this year and has since gone on to do some stuff that should probably be banned but currently isn't. In June of this year, she assumed her current role, part of which appears to be forcing unsuspecting schoolchildren to eat soggy salad. 

Adams and Atcheson appear to be pretty close; he name-checks her by her first name in speeches, and she's posted quite a few photos of the two of them together. 

But our ears really perked up when we learned that Atcheson, now involved in this alleged straw donor scandal, is dating Sean McElwee, the Data for Progress cofounder who was also recently accused of trying to enact a straw donor scheme (his attorney has called this claim "categorically false"). Also, FTX's disgraced founder Sam Bankman-Fried is somehow involved? You should read the stories, they are fascinating. 

According to both of their Instagram accounts, the two have been coupled up for just over a year. Bombshell? No. At face value, this is, like, group chat fodder at best. But if you're a very specific kind of annoying about NYC (and national) politics—which we obviously are—then perhaps you, like us, are dying to know more about what they talk about at their (meatless) dinner table. 

Of course, from what Atcheson and McElwee post about their relationship online, they're not posting about the ways their proximity to powerful people has dragged them into the news, or about their mutual (potential) legal troubles. Instead, they're posting about their shared interests—the "vegan paradise" that is Tulum, poker nights, going skiing, normal white couple stuff. 

How did they meet? How are they weathering these very stressful times? Do they have any advice for Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray, another NYC power couple going through a rough patch? Neither one responded to a request for comment from Hell Gate. 

And some extremely ethically sound links for your Friday:

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