Published in City & State
New York City is still in the halcyon days of a Bill de Blasio victory, and news coverage abounds about the sharp left turn the city has taken. It’s ironic, then, that as a candidate de Blasio was quietly collecting contributions from employees, business partners and family members of former U.S. senator and current lobbyist Alfonse D’Amato, the man whom many still view as the most powerful Republican in the state. While D’Amato was supporting Thompson, his associates were funding a de Blasio victory before the primary had even taken place. A total of $117,845 D’Amato-connected money was donated to the de Blasio campaign, $107,520 of which was donated before the primaries.
D’Amato, a founding partner of Park Strategies consulting group, openly supported Bill Thompson during the primaries, bundling $69,800 and even going so far as to stump for him in key Orthodox sections of Crown Heights on the Sunday before the election. At the same time that D’Amato was openly favoring Thompson, however, D’Amato-connected money was being directed towards Thompson’s rival and future mayor-elect.
Park Strategies has produced two big-money de Blasio bundlers: managing directors David Poleto and Joel Giambra. Poleto raised $7,850; Giambra, $28,350. Poleto has donors that include a Park Strategies vice president, John Zagame ($400), as well as Alfonse’s relative Amy D’Amato—who through Poleto donated $2,000 to de Blasio from 2011 to 2012, and another $2,475 after the primaries. Poleto himself gave only a few hundred to de Blasio, but Deborah Poleto gave $3,950. In de Blasio’s previous campaign for public advocate in 2009, D’Amato’s wife, Katuria, maxed out, donating $4,950.
Park Strategy employees with more modest contributions to de Blasio include Kraig Siracuse ($200), Ryan Moses ($1,000), Robert McBride ($2,500, after the primary), Peter Molinaro ($150), Joe Rossi ($100) and former Assembly Speaker Melvin Miller ($400, after the primary).
Another source of D’Amato money comes from Anthony Bonomo, owner of Physicians Reciprocal Insurance, and a client of Park Strategies. His fundraising includes $2,475 from Greg Serio, a partner and managing director at Park Strategies. Bonomo co-hosted a McCain fundraiser with D’Amato in 2008, and helped direct funds to the Paterson campaign. He bundled a total of $44,550 for de Blasio.
Bonomo is also the link to Howard Fensterman, who bundled $20,400 for de Blasio. Fensterman raised money from Anthony Bonomo, as well as Jaclyn and Julianne Bonomo.
These donors are especially noteworthy, as they have no obvious ties to New York City. Bonomo’s company is based in Roslyn, on Long Island. Giambra is the former Erie County executive, and all the money he raised is from the Buffalo area. This disconnect makes it all the more likely they raised funds for de Blasio on behalf of D’Amato, a lobbyist who depends very heavily on cultivating a good relationship with city government.
Leonard Litwin, a longtime D’Amato associate and lobbyist, also maxed out at $4,950 to de Blasio. Charles Modica, founder and chancellor of St. George’s University, maxed out to de Blasio at $4,950, and previously donated to the Friends of Senator D’Amato committee. More significantly, however, he and D’Amato have a history dating back to at least 1983, when D’Amato brokered a deal to get 350 St. George students temporarily admitted to the Brooklyn Center of Long Island University and St. Barnabas in New Jersey after a coup in Grenada.
When asked about D’Amato’s involvement with contributions to the de Blasio campaign, Park Strategies Managing Director Dave Catalfamo emphasized that D’Amato was a supporter of Thompson.
“One of the partners in our firm, David Poleto, has a long-standing relationship with de Blasio, and did in fact help raise money on his behalf, and has done so before, throughout de Blasio’s public career,” Catalfamo said. “That’s where that tie comes from.” The de Blasio campaign did not return a request for comment.
A three-term senator, D’Amato lost his re-election bid in 1998 to Charles Schumer, but has maintained his status as a major political player. After his Senate career D’Amato started Park Strategies, and went into consulting and lobbying. He also appears on the Fox News Channel and Bloomberg Radio, and is featured as one of the “Wise Guy” commentators on NY1.
As for Park Strategies, its list of clients is impressive, and directors lobby on the national, state and city levels. D’Amato was once famously paid $500,000 in 2003 for making a single phone call to the MTA chairman on behalf of a building owner. In 2013 Park Strategies is on record in New York City as lobbying for eight companies, one of which (CGI Technologies and Solutions) is currently listed as having business before the city. Of 110 clients on the state level for the 2013–14 year, 15 have business before the city, and of the 26 clients on the national level, three have business before the city.