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Is The FBI Now Involved In NYC's Crazy Horse-Carriage Debate?

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: People protest against the use of carriage horses at Central Park on April 24, 2014 in New York City
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: People protest against the use of carriage horses at Central Park on April 24, 2014 in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, a Democrat, made a campaign pledge to ban carriages in Central Park. Many New Yorkers have been voicing their support for the horses and drivers despite the criticism from animal welfare agencies. Recently, animal welfare activists protested in front of actor Liam Neeson's home after he wrote a newspaper piece in support of the carriage horses. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Each new day seems to bring another strange development in the highly-publicized bid to ban horse carriages in New York City.

Friday's cover of The Daily News -- which has launched its own campaign in support of carriage drivers -- is dedicated to a report the FBI is now peripherally involved in the debate, with agents probing a claim that threats were made against former mayoral candidate Christine Quinn.

The FBI is said to be specifically looking into whether an incident in early 2013 -- when Quinn was largely seen as the race's clear frontrunner -- escalated into an act of extortion.

According to the story, a consultant hired by the pro-ban animal rights group NYCLASS allegedly approached members of Quinn's campaign, telling them if she failed to back the carriage ban, the group would spend large amounts of money campaigning against her. ("And when she said neigh, they buried her," punned the paper.)

Neither the FBI nor the consultant, Scott Levenson, responded to The Daily News with comment.

NYCLASS did end up donating heavily to Quinn's rival, now-Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had vowed to put an end to the carriage industry within his first week at City Hall.

De Blasio clearly overstated that promise. But to be fair, who could have anticipated the mayor would be facing off against Liam Neeson? The actor-turned-mayoral arch nemesis is among several high-profile voices -- including, bizarrely, an ex-president of France -- speaking out in favor of keeping horse and carriage rides in Central Park.

Claims of a federal investigation are just the latest wobble in the angry debate, which nearly engulfed even Vice President Joe Biden earlier this week. Though the pro-ban group Equine Advocates announced Biden was speaking at its weekend conference, White House officials told NY1 the VP "was totally unaware of the event." Whoops.

When asked about the report, a spokesperson for NYCLASS told Huff Post the organization had "no knowledge of any investigation."

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