Pheffer raises $72,212 for her beep campaign

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Pheffer raised $72,212, qualified for...

By Betsy Scheinbart

State Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach) raised $173,502 and is in the middle of the pack in fund-raising for the Queens borough presidential race, her filings with the Campaign Finance Board show.

Pheffer raised $72,212, qualified for $106,864 in the city’s matching funds program and had a war chest of $173,502 after expenditures of $5,574 as of Jan. 11, the first campaign finance disclosure deadline by candidates for city office.

Pheffer reported receiving 21 contributions of $1,000 or more from individuals, groups and limited liability companies, which are exempt from the 1998 ban on corporate contributions to candidates participating in the matching funds program, said Frank Barry, a spokesman for the Campaign Finance Board.

Barry said the state Board of Elections does not consider limited-liability companies to be corporations, so the Campaign Finance Board allows them to contribute.

Friends of Claire Shulman, the campaign committee for the current borough president, donated $3,500 to Pheffer, according to the filings.

Shulman, who cannot run again because of term limits, has not publicly endorsed Pheffer, but according to her spokesman, Dan Andrews, she believes Pheffer would be an outstanding borough president. Andrews said Shulman recently held a fund-raiser in her home for the assemblywoman.

“I think she is a great person to have in my corner,” Pheffer said of Shulman.

Several of Shulman’s employees also contributed to Pheffer, including Alexandra Rosa, her chief of staff, and Barry Grodenchik, her chief administrative officer and a city council candidate. Each donated $250.

“She is an incredibly decent person,” Grodenchik said of Pheffer. “She is passionate about helping people, and that really strikes a chord with me.”

Simon Pelman, executive director of the Union Plaza Nursing Homein Flushing, contributed a total of $3,500, according to Pheffer’s filings.

Pheffer chairs the Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee in the Assembly and said she has been an advocate for nursing homes when they needed more state funding.

Pheffer also received donations from the Mattone family, the College Point developer of the 15-screen movie theater complex at One Jamaica Center. Pheffer received $1,000 from Joseph Mattone, chairman of the Mattone Group Jamaica Co., and $500 each from his sons Carl, president, and Michael, chief financial officer.

The Campaign Finance Board tracks the contributions and expenditures of each candidate for elected city offices.

Barry said the city matches every dollar donated to candidates with $4, up to $250 per individual contribution. He said if an individual donates $500 to the candidate, $250 is matched by the city and the political contender receives a total donation of $1,000.

With $173,502, Pheffer’s war chest is smaller than that of City Councilman Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis), who led the pack with $431,115, and former Board of Education representative Carol Gresser, who followed close behind with $423,022.

City Councilwoman Helen Marshall (D-East Elmhurst) has slightly more than Pheffer, with $204,747.

The lone Republican candidate, Councilman Al Stabile of Ozone Park trailed Pheffer in fund-raising with $148,196, and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) had $98,346.

Community activist Haydee Zambrana has not yet filed with the Campaign Finance Board.

Councilman Michael Abel (R-Bayside) and Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio (D-Richmond Hill) both dropped out of the race in March.

Pheffer, who serves on the Higher Education Committee in the Assembly, said her top priority is education and she has worked to get teachers higher salaries. Of 450 individual donors, 16 city Board of Education employees have contributed to Pheffer’s campaign so far, the filings showed.

She received hundreds of small donations from her assembly constituents. Her district covers most of the Rockaways, including Rockaway Beach, Rockaway Park, Breezy Point, Roxbury, Neponsit, Belle Harbor, Hammel, Broad Channel and part of Far Rockaway. It also covers Howard Beach and parts of Ozone Park, South Ozone Park and Woodhaven.

“We were very happy with my local people, who gave what they could afford,” said Pheffer, who lives in Far Rockaway.

Pheffer was also supported by several bus company executives. She received donations of $1,000 from both the president and vice president of Green Bus Lines in Jamaica and from the president of Jamaica Bus Lines, Inc.

“I would hope that whether it was a teacher, a bus company, or whatever, it came from my reputation of being a fair and honest,” Pheffer said of her donors.

An executive at Triboro Coach Corp. donated $1,000, and the general manager gave an additional $500. The Transpiration Workers Union 100, a political action committee, gave $1,000.

Under Campaign Finance Board guidelines, politicians can accept PAC money if the PAC is registered with the board.

The maximum amount any candidate can spend in the borough presidency race this year is $1,177,000 for the primary and the same amount again for the general election. The cap on public matching funds is $647,350 for both the primary and the general election.

Barry said funds will only be matched for donations from individuals who live in the five boroughs. Contributions from a political action committee or donations from people living outside the city are not matched.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.

Posted 7:04 pm, October 10, 2011
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