Some elected officials refuse cop PAC money

State Set. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) shared a video of peaceful protests and crowds chanting “Black Lives Matter” outside the 115th Precicnt in Jackson Heights before announcing he would redistribute all re election funds received from law enforcement groups toward bail for arrested protesters.

With police brutality protests erupting across the country and neighborhoods across Queens, several officials running for re-election in the city have vowed to redistribute campaign donations from police association groups to protest bail and other organizations fighting for race equality.

“I am donating all contributions received from police [political action committees]for my re-election to bail funds and mutual aid organizations, and I will not accept them going forward. We need to call out injustice, but most of all we must act,” state Sen. Majority Leader Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) tweeted the morning of May 30 after sharing a video of a peaceful protest in Jackson Heights. “No more violence. We deserve a police force that acts with empathy. And we deserve a police force that is held accountable for racist behavior.”

According to a spreadsheet created by Queens resident Aaron Narraph that displays how much funding elected officials received from organizations such as New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, Gianaris has returned $16,650. The spreadsheet cites only seven other elected officials here as accepting more money from PAC groups, two being Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz and Assemblyman Michael Den Dekker (D-East Elmhurst), though Den Dekker’s office said he has never accepted funding from police associations. 

Several other Queens representatives followed Gianaris’ suit, announcing their intentions through Twitter — Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) pledged $5,350, while Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz (D-Corona) and Councilmember Francisco Moya (D-Corona) each pledged $1,000.

“I stand with our community, there won’t be peace until we all draw a clear line in the sand and fight for whats right,” Cruz tweeted.

For some elected officials, redistributing donation funds doesn’t seem like a viable response to the protests.

“I’ve proven in the past that money can not influence my vote or my work. I’m not influenced by money so I don’t see myself returning funds,” state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) told the Chronicle Monday. Accoridng to Narraph’s research, Addabbo accepted $7,200 from police PACs. “I think PBA represents the officers as well so I don’t view [funding] as bad.”

Addabbo said that he’s been making donations to frontline and essential organizations during the pandemic, which remains his top priority. He said that he does support the protests in their messaging, but believes the violence is getting out of hand.

“The protests are unfortunate. I don’t believe in violence, I believe in justice ... There was a tragedy — that should not happen to any human being,” he said of George Floyd’s death. “I’m all for peaceful protests with the right messaging ... I’d refrain from doing larger gatherings because of the pandemic ... Keep to the messaging of fair and equitable justice and refrain from the violence.”

Elected officials such as Assemblymember Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows), who is recorded as having accepted $750 from police officer associations, have not announced intentions to redistribute the funds, but instead have voiced support for Assembly Bill A3333. The bill, sponsored by Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell (D-Manhattan) would repeal Civil Rights Law 50-a to allow for the public disclosure of police records relating to alleged misconduct.

“Rooting out systemic racism in our institutions and communities will not be achieved overnight but there is action that can be taken now to move us forward,” Rozic said in a June 1 tweet.