A diverse group of patrons ranging from upstate Indian nations to Westchester County bankers to the leading candidate for lieutenant governor want a piece of the Queens political pie.
Donations to political campaigns are rolling in from places near and far, with the usual suspects—Democratic Party power brokers and influential business leaders—sharing the ledger with people and companies with no apparent connection to Queens.
The money race, made public in financial disclosures to the state Board of Elections last week, reveals a significant gap in fundraising, with party backed candidates well in front of their rivals.
In the borough’s most contentious race, incumbent state Sen. John Sabini (D Jackson Heights) is trouncing Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D Corona) in the battle for donations. From Jan. 1 to June 30, Sabini, who enjoys strong support from the Democratic Party establishment, raised $142,981, with $63,729 remaining in his war chest. Monserrate raised $15,250, of which $9,927 has not been spent.
Sabini has received donations from the registered committees of a number of Democratic office holders including Queens Congressman Joseph Crowley ($5,400), Manhattan state Sens. Tom Duane ($1,000) and Liz Krueger ($2,000), Albany state Sen. Neil Breslin ($1,000) and Forest Hills Councilwoman Melinda Katz ($250). Hollis Councilman David Weprin’s committee, meanwhile, donated $1,000 to Monserrate’s campaign.
The rest of Sabini’s list of patrons includes an impressive docket of local power players including Sterling Mets ($2,000), Silvercup Studios ($500), Jackson Heights builder Mark Misk ($2,000), and Joseph Mattone, one of the owners of a controversial development company ($350).
The two term senator, who sits as the ranking minority member on the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, also pulled in money from upstate Indian nations and several racing associations. The Oneida Indian Nation gave $2,215, the New York Thoroughbred Association donated $1,000 and Blue Chip Farms, a horse breeding farm in the Catskills, ponied up $1,000.
Monserrate’s donations have come in much smaller amounts from lower profile supporters. Very few patrons live outside the district and only five gave $1,000. In fact, Monserrate returned his largest donation, $2,750 from George Miltiadous of Astoria.
Crowley, who Monserrate challenged in 2004, looms large over the race. In addition to the sizable donation from Crowley’s committee, one of the congressman’s regular givers, Gregory Holcombe, a Westchester banker, donated $4,000 to Sabini’s campaign. Together the two donations nearly equal Monserrate’s entire remaining war chest.
The congressman, who is favored to take over the leadership of the Queens Democratic Party from the recently deceased Tom Manton, exerted his influence in two other local races. His committee donated to Rory Lancman, the party’s pick to replace embattled Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D Flushing), and Assemblyman Jose Peralta (D Jackson Heights), who is being challenged by Carmen Enriquez.
Thus far Crowley has stayed out of the two races with the most candidates, Southeast Queens’ 10th Senate district and Flushing’s 22nd Assembly district. In the former, incumbent Sen. Ada Smith appears to lead the money race, but true numbers remain elusive because three candidates have yet to file mandatory disclosures. Former Councilman Allan Jennings, Republican nominee Jereline Hunter, and District 28 Community Education Council President Shirley Huntley—widely considered to have the best chance of unseating Smith—did not file disclosures by the deadline on July 17.
The fifth candidate, anti gun advocate Liz Bishop Goldsmith raised only $2,400 compared with Smith’s $17,275. Her campaign is being kept afloat in part by a $2,103 personal loan she made in June.
Smith, by contrast, has raised most of her money from sources outside of the district. Twenty five of her 29 donations came from entities or individuals not located in Southeast Queens. She drew heavily on union support, including sizable donations from District Council 37’s Local 372 ($1,800) and the Corrections Officers Benevolent Association ($1,500). Her largest supporter, however, was the committee for state Sen. David Paterson, who is running for lieutenant governor and poll leader Eliot Spitzer’s running mate.
Earlier this year, Paterson, in his position as the Senate’s minority leader, reprimanded Smith for “a pattern of inappropriate, unprofessional, and often abusive behavior” toward staff members. His committee donated $3,000 to Smith’s campaign a few weeks before the Queens senator was charged with assault for allegedly throwing hot coffee in the eyes of an aide. The charges have since been reduced to a violation.
The race with the largest amount of donations to date is Flushing’s 22nd District. Three candidates—Grace Meng, Terence Park and Ellen Young—each raised more than $95,000 apiece in the first half of 2006. Young led the way with $251,883, followed by Meng with $169,115, and Park with $95,765. A fourth candidate, Julia Harrison, raised $31,862.
Young, who was endorsed by the Queens Democratic Party, also has a large lead in remaining funds. She has $238,042, double the next closest contender Park, with $113,872. Park’s numbers also include a $59,000 personal loan that he gave to the campaign in February. Meng ranks third with $43,755 in remaining funds, while Harrison trails with $17,245.
A significant amount of Young’s support has come from several large developers based in Northern Queens including Tom Barone ($3,100), TDC Development & Construction Corp. ($3,400), Muss Development ($2,500), and F & T Management and Parking Corp. ($3,400). Meng also received substantial support from developers including Sing Oi Lau ($2,000) and the same TDC Development & Construction Corp. ($3,400) that gave money to Young. Flushing business leader Peter Koo also gave significantly to both campaigns. As an individual he donated $3,400 to Meng, but his company K & F Drug Corp. gave $3,400 to Young.
Young, who is a former aide to Councilman John Liu (D Flushing) and Meng, who is the daughter of retiring incumbent Jimmy Meng, both garnered support from their political connections. Liu’s wife, Jenny Lee Liu, donated $1,000 to Young’s campaign, while Jimmy Meng’s company Queens Lumber Co. gave $3,400 to Grace Meng’s committee.
In Northern Queens’ other assembly race, Lancman has more than doubled challenger Morshed Alam’s 2006 fundraising take—$129,804 to $61,501. Lancman also leads $78,518 to $14,022 in remaining funds.
Many of Lancman’s larger donations come from attorneys and unions, with the top amount (a total of $4,500 from two donations) coming from David Ratner and Benedict Morelli, the two partners in his firm. His other notable patrons include former Assemblyman Barry Grodenchik ($250) and Brian Meara, a controversial lobbyist who is good friends with Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver ($1,000).
A large number of Alam’s donations came out of South Asian communities in Jamaica and Queens Village, but he also received money from places as far away as Plano, Texas, and Baltimore, Md. Outside the South Asian community he received significant support from Monserrate’s committee ($2,000) and two unions—District Council 37 ($2,500) and American Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees Local 1407 ($2,000).
The money race in the 31st District Assembly race between incumbent Michele Titus and challenger Michael Duvalle appears close, but only because Duvalle loaned his campaign $75,000. Titus raised $21,366 in the first half of 2006, while Duvalle pulled in $2,000. Titus has $31,433 in funds remaining, while Duvalle has $29,502.
Titus has garnered several small donations from local power brokers including district leaders Juanita Watkins ($125), Jacqueline Boyce ($80) and Archie Spigner ($80). Duvalle, meanwhile, received only two donations outside of his own $75,000 investment. The campaign also has yet to pay a $6,000 bill from Manhattan based consultants The Advance Group from June.
Another fundraising race that appears close because of a candidate’s self donation is the 15th Senate District. Incumbent Serphin Maltese (R Glendale) collected $48,660 from January through June, while Albert Baldeo, who seeks the Democratic nomination raised $20,640—$16,200 of it from himself or his wife, Tara Baldeo. Bartholomew Bruno, who is challenging Maltese on the Republican line, did not file a disclosure.
Baldeo also received a $3,240 donation from consultant Jeffrey Barrett in July, after the campaign paid Barrett $2,498 in June for his services.
The majority of Maltese’s donations came in small amounts from individuals who live locally, but he also collected significant support from a number of state and city unions, including the state court officers, the sanitation workers, the state police, the transit police, the police lieutenants and the fire officers. The largest donation to Maltese, who chairs the Senate’s Cities Committee came from Peter Kalikow, the chairman of the MTA, who gave $3,000.
Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D Rockaway Beach), who is gearing up for a possible general election challenge from Republican Stuart Mirsky, raised $45,772 in the first half of 2006, leaving her with $119,845 in the bank. Mirsky, did not file a disclosure report.
Where’s The Money Coming From?
Serphin Maltese’s largest donation ($3,000) came from Peter Kalikow, the chairman of the MTA. He also received large donations from the Women’s Republican Club ($1,470), the New York State AFL CIO ($1,000) and Brooklyn based MECC Contracting ($780).
In March, Ada Smith received $3,000 from state Sen. David Paterson, the leading candidate for lieutenant governor. Within weeks, Paterson, as senate minority leader, disciplined Smith for “a pattern of inappropriate, unprofessional, and often abusive behavior” toward staff members.
John Sabini, who is the ranking minority member on the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, received $2,215 from the Oneida Indian Nation, which runs a casino, $1,000 from the New York Thoroughbred Association and $1,000 from Blue Chip Farms, a horse breeding farm in the Catskills.