Category Archives: Elections

Heard Around Town: Schachter to Challenge Mason

Rumor has it that Trudy Mason, the longtime Democratic state committee member representing the 73rd district on the Upper East Side, will get an unexpected challenge for her seat from fellow Lexington Democratic Club member, Bessie Schachter, the club’s vice president. If so, the executive committee of the Lexington Democratic Club will meet next week on the 20th, and their endorsement meeting will take place on the 21st. The actual primary for Democratic state committee member is not until September. When called for comment about the rumor, Mason expressed surprise, saying she herself has been trying to find out if it were true. Mason recalled that at the Lexington Democratic Club Annual Dinner on May 1, Schachter was seated at her table. “It couldn’t have been nicer and more friendly,” said Mason. “I am trying to understand, I am really mystified by her rationale.  When you run a race, there always has to be a logical reason.”  Mason maintains that she has been an extremely effective state committeewoman, and that in phone conversations over the past several days she has been endorsed for reelection by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Assemblyman Dan Quart. Mason has not been contacted by Schachter, nor has she attempted to call her. “I don’t think it’s my place to contact her. I am the sitting Democratic state committeewoman for the 73rd Assembly District … And I think if someone is challenging me, they owe me the courtesy of letting me know that.” Schachter declined to comment.

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City Council Proposes More Disclosure on Independent Expenditure

On Friday afternoon, the Government Operations Subcommittee of the City Council met to discuss the issue of the moment – money in politics. Yesterday, a federal judge struck down New York State’s limit on contributions to independent groups that support political candidates. Previously, New York put a $150,000 limit on such contributions. The tone in City Council was somber about the decision as Council Members considered several bills to make campaign disclosures more transparent. “Transparency may be the only safeguard that we have against the potentially corrupting influence of money,” said Councilmember Ritchie Torres. Representatives from the Campaign Finance Board testified, as well as the League of Women Voters, and Common Cause. Amy Loprest from CFB spoke about Proposition 148-A, a bill that would increase independent expenditure disclosure requirements. “During the 2013 elections, ‘Jobs for New York’ spent more than 4.9 million…for the average voter looking at a mailing for the group…nothing about it’s name would indicate that it was backed by contributions for the real estate industry,” she said. “The goal here is to provide disclosure, not to discourage independent expenditures” said Councilmember Brad Lander, a sponsor of 148-A. “I wouldn’t mind if we had some other way to discourage independent expenditures, but the goal of this legislation is to encourage disclosure.”

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Filed under Campaign Finance Board, City Council, Elections, Money

HOT 97 DJs’ New York City Voter Registration Status Unclear

Published in City & State

Several of the hosts of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s favorite morning radio show on Hot 97 appear to not be registered to vote, at least according to public records.

In an ongoing effort to portray himself as a man of the people, Mayor de Blasio has made several appearances on The Hot 97 Morning Show on hip-hop and R&B radio station Hot 97, engaging a much different demographic than his predecessor Michael Bloomberg, who preferred the more buttoned-down John Gambling on AM radio.

De Blasio has appeared on The Morning Show three times since becoming mayor, and once as a candidate. The Morning Show deejays Ebro Darden, Peter Rosenberg, DJ Cipha Sounds (a,k.a Luis Diaz), and Laura Stylez (a.k.a. Laura Estilo) have discussed a wide range of issues with the mayor from charter schools, to stop-and-frisk, to decriminalizing marijuana, and of course universal preschool. However, after a search through Board of Elections records, City & State found that only Rosenberg is registered to vote in New York City.

When City & State reached out to Hot 97 to confirm these findings, the station’s publicist and digital communications manager Lindsay Salandra claimed that both Darden and Estilo are registered to vote as well.

“You’re not finding voting registration information because you have incorrect government names,” Salandra wrote in response to C&S’ email inquiry.

She added that she was not sure about Diaz’s registration status because “I have not gotten a chance to speak with him.”

When asked to provide the hosts’ correct names, Salandra replied that she was not authorized to release them. Salandra did not respond to a follow-up email requesting documentation to prove that both Darden and Estilo were registered to vote.

The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Filed under Elections, Mayor Bill de Blasio

De Blasio Benefited From D’Amato Money

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.

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Filed under Elections, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Money

SEIU1199 Election Day Operation Seals The Deal

Published in City & State

SEIU1199 Healthcare Workers East was out in full force on Tuesday in all five New York City boroughs to get out the vote for a roster of Democratic candidates, including Letitia James, Scott Stinger, and most importantly, Bill de Blasio.

Since the union threw its support behind de Blasio in May, it has spent $197,430.32 in radio, newspaper and Internet advertisements (including a promoted tweet or two) for de Blasio, and an extra $21,315 for flyers that include de Blasio along with other candidates, according to the union’s most recent filing.

Tuesday was the final day of SEIU1199’s massive GOTV operation. It has been actively contacting the 100,000 registered voters among their members since Saturday. Election Day began with citywide flyering at subway stops starting at 9 a.m., and moved onto canvassing and phone banking at noon. The last round of door knocking was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Manhattan, and 8 p.m. in Brooklyn.

Ground troops in the SEIU GOTV operation. (Photo by Azure Gilman)

Ground troops in the SEIU GOTV operation. (Photo by Azure Gilman)

1199’s GOTV effort in Manhattan was run out of a Methodist church on Broadway and 173rd Street in the Washington Heights neighborhood. This area, not coincidentally, is also where the highest density of 1199’s Manhattan members live.

Just before noon, one of the union’s vice presidents, Estella Vasquez, stood up and rallied canvassers. “We are making history today,” she said. “We are going to end 20 years of Republican control in City Hall.”

The room applauded. Vasquez highlighted de Blasio’s campaign promise to tax the rich to fund universal pre-kindergarten, and his plan to build 200,000 new units of affordable housing.

“We want a mayor who cares about hospitals, and hospital closings,” she added, emphasizing one of the union’s bread-and-butter issues, which de Blasio has eagerly embraced, even getting arrested for protesting the proposed closure of Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn.

After the remarks, volunteers were instructed to leave in groups of two to four, and rotate back through their list of doors if they finished early. A warm dinner would await them at the end of the day back at headquarters.

Tuesday’s efforts by 1199 were a mix of volunteers and paid staff. No one was forthcoming with exact numbers, but the union’s political coordinator, Dell Smitherton, estimated that there were around 400 staff members and 350 member-volunteers working throughout the city.

Door knockers and phone bankers were a mix of long time and relatively new union members, and a combination of hospital and home care workers. Among the reasons volunteers cited for giving up their time on Election Day were concerns about affordable housing, stop-and-frisk, and keeping hospitals open.

“I would strongly like him to stop all closures of hospitals,” said Jeffrey Peralta, a Manhattan volunteer, who works at Gracie Square Hospital. “It’s not a luxury, it’s a need.”

Many volunteers also emphasized the personal kinship they felt with de Blasio as a gladiator for the working class, seeing his arrest in the July hospital protest as a sign that he was a candidate willing to fight for them. Dawn Mason-Haas, a Brooklyn volunteer, noted that most of the areas dealing with closing hospitals were predominately minority neighborhoods.

SEIU volunteers consult their Election Day plan. (Photo by Azure Gilman)

SEIU volunteers consult their Election Day plan. (Photo by Azure Gilman)

Presbyterian Hospital employee Charlie Hilario, a member of 1199 since 2002, emphasized the housing crisis that he saw in the city. “When people used to use shelters, it used to be drug addicts or alcoholics.  But now you see families with kids.  I think it’s sad that you see working families going to shelters. And I’m pretty sure that Bill de Blasio is going to be a champion for affordable housing.”

The Brooklyn 1199 Election Day operation was headquartered near the southwest corner of Prospect Park, with roughly 100 volunteers out canvassing throughout the day, and a rotating group of 6 phone bankers. Two big vans and five small vans were on call to take volunteers where they needed to go. Members were out flyering at 15 train stations in the morning, and by 3:30 p.m., the sound truck outside was getting ready to make its rounds, reminding people to vote over a loudspeaker.

Velda Jeffrey, the organizer of the Brooklyn headquarters, said that the effort on Election Day was smaller than the operation they had run for de Blasio during the primaries.

“We had hundreds of people in each borough then,” she said, explaining that volunteering by union members was not mandatory, but that it was encouraged.

Smitherton said that it has been a grueling campaign season for 1199 between the primary, the runoff for public advocate, and the general election. Throughout the campaign season, 31 union members have doubled as political organizers, temporarily taking time off from their healthcare jobs to work for the political wing of 1199.

Over the course of the election, 1199 reached out to its voting members through mailings, town halls, robocalls, and door knocking. Smitherton said the core of the union’s Election Day had been canvassing. “The majority are canvassers today. We only have phone-banking efforts for those that are physically incapable of door knocking. The best contact you can have is a door knocking contact.”

Smitherton hopes de Blasio will focus on keeping hospitals open, paid sick leave, and raising the minimum wage. “Under Bloomberg, we had 12 hospitals closures and not one word from the mayor. It’s not in the mayoral budget; it’s more of a state issue. But many things are not under the mayor’s scope, and he still lends his two cents to the Legislature or the governor.”

George Gresham, 1199′s president, emphasized that they wanted to help de Blasio not just win, but win by a large enough margin for a mandate. Asked if he believed SEIU1199’s early endorsement and primary efforts for de Blasio had been a turning point in the campaign, Gresham demurred. “I think that is for the campaign to judge,” he said.

He did point out, however, the degree to which SEIU had gotten behind Blasio.

“For the first time in 24 years—since 1989—it’s the first time we’ve made this kind of really strong effort, and the first time ever that our executive board unanimously endorsed a single candidate for mayor.”

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Filed under Elections, Labor, Mayor Bill de Blasio