The invitation was sent to a select group of well-heeled potential donors, who were asked to attend a Friday morning fund-raiser at a construction company in Boston. Donations of up to $5,000 were expected. The guest of honor would be the mayor — of New York City.
For Mayor Bill de Blasio, the quick fund-raising stop in Boston was the latest in a series of out-of-town trips aimed at raising cash and boosting his national profile as he toys with a 2020 presidential run.
For the company hosting him, Suffolk Construction, the fund-raiser offered a chance to help Mr. de Blasio at a time when the business is aggressively trying to extend its footprint in the city.
The company has already one connection to the mayor: Late last year, it hired Shola Olatoye, the former chairwoman of the New York City Housing Authority, who resigned amid scandal last year, but had been roundly praised by Mr. de Blasio throughout her tenure. Ms. Olatoye’s responsibilities for Suffolk include generating new business in and around New York.
Mr. de Blasio has previously faced questions over his fund-raising tactics that have appeared to target those with actual or potential business with the city government. State and federal prosecutors investigated his practices but declined to bring charges.
The mayor is now seeking large donations for his political action committee, Fairness PAC, which has paid for some of Mr. de Blasio’s recent cross-country travel. Shortly after his fund-raiser in Boston, Mr. de Blasio was to travel on Friday to Nevada to meet with local Democrats.
“We have a political system that requires us to seek individual donations,” Mr. de Blasio said at an unrelated news conference in City Hall on Thursday, adding that he hoped the system would be changed. “What’s important is to follow every law, every rule, and to have a very consistent vetting process. That’s what we do.”
The specifics of Friday’s fund-raiser, which is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. and will last about 90 minutes, were kept solidly under wraps. A spokesman for Fairness PAC declined to provide the name of the host.
“Not going into details of private fund-raisers,” said the spokesman, Michael Casca, a City Hall aide who is using his vacation time to work for the committee. “The mayor is continuing his hard work to elect progressive candidates and make bold change all over the country.”
But one invitee described the contents of the invitation.
“The outcome of federal and state elections has a huge impact on what the mayor can accomplish in New York City,” the invitation read, according to the person. “And this PAC is an opportunity to harness the amazing energy in the Democratic Party and help change the direction of our politics on both a local and national level.”
The invitation came from John F. Fish, the Suffolk chief executive and a prominent Boston figure who helped spearhead the city’s failed attempt to lure the 2024 Olympics. In addition to hosting the event, Mr. Fish in December donated $5,000 — the maximum contribution amount — to Mr. de Blasio’s political action committee, records show.
“Suffolk is proud to be making strides in the New York region by introducing clients to more sophisticated planning and construction technologies and delivery methods,” said a company spokesman, Sam Spokony. The company did not respond to questions about the fund-raiser.
This wasn’t Mr. Fish and his company’s first foray into national politics.
In 2017, the Federal Election Commission fined Suffolk $34,000 for donating $200,000 to a political action committee supporting Hillary Clinton, Priorities USA, while it was working as a federal contractor in West Point, N.Y. The fine was among the larger penalties meted out in connection with the 2016 presidential election, according to the commission. (Priorities USA returned the contributions in mid-2016.)
In the last two years, Mr. Fish has contributed $2.2 million to political campaigns, mostly to elect Democrats to federal office, according to federal filings.
At the same time, Suffolk has been seeking to increase its presence in New York.
Among its projects, the company recently completed construction of an apartment tower in Brooklyn Bridge Park, a development that included city-subsidized affordable housing. And the company’s website featured a panoramic aerial shot of the Brooklyn waterfront and Lower Manhattan on its main page as of Thursday.
“We’ve been focusing on really relationship building,” Charlie Avolio, the head of the company’s New York office, said in a 2017 interview. “We don’t chase work, we chase relationships. And if we can create productive relationships, at some point, they’ll be fruitful.”
The hiring of Ms. Olatoye — who faced withering criticism during her tenure at the city’s troubled housing authority, in large part because of a high-profile lead paint scandal — appeared to be part of those efforts.
“At every step of my career, I’ve been passionate about building relationships,” she said in a statement in October when her new job at Suffolk was announced. “I will help the company expand its footprint in the region and lead its growing business development team.”