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Hevesi’s $6M campaign funds draw criticism

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Hevesi has amassed more than $6.4 million in funds since he...

By Jennifer Warren

The campaign budget of City Comptroller and Democratic mayoral candidate Alan Hevesi has in recent months been the favored target of criticism by opponents — both in and outside of the race.

Hevesi has amassed more than $6.4 million in funds since he began collecting contributions in 1998, according to filings with the Campaign Finance Board.

His numbers leave Democratic rivals Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, Public Advocate Mark Green and City Council Speaker Peter Vallone clamoring for a distant second — their funds each hover around $3 million, according to the filings.

Running under the Republican ticket is billionaire media mogul Michael Bloomberg who has not filed with the campaign finance board; he is expected to simply use his own money. And Herman Badillo, also a Republican candidate, has raised $100,680 in funds according to board filings, but to date has spent all but $311.

Several of Hevesi’s donors are prominent players in New York’s real estate and investment circles. Among them are Dale Hemmerdinger, Richard Fischbein, Douglas Dursts, Edgar Bronfman and several individuals from the Fisher Brothers firm in Manhattan

Dale Hemmerdinger, president of ATCO properties, a Manhattan company that owns and manages luxury apartments in the city, has donated with several members of his family more than $23,000.

“I guess I’ve known Alan for a long time and I think he’s very smart and very competent,” Hemmerdinger said, noting that Hevesi was the only candidate with long-term experience in Albany.

“He would be the first mayor that I could think of in a long time who understands Albany’s impact on the city of New York,” Hemmerdinger said. “You have to understand that and deal with the politicians. I don’t think it does any good to do what Giuliani does, which is just to yell at them.”

The Fisher Brothers and those affiliated with the real estate development firm made 18 separate donations totaling at least $60,000 between September 1998 and February 1999.

Bais Yaakov of Brooklyn, a private religious school and those affiliated with it, made 15 separate donations between March 1999 and November 2000 totaling at least $22,000.

Hevesi campaign spokesman Josh Isay declined to comment on the list of contributors. “I have no response. These are longtime supporters and friends — certainly the Fisher Brothers are longtime supporters,” Isay said.

Other frequent contributors included the law firms Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes, and Canter Fitzgerald, both of Manhattan. Milberg Weiss filed seven separate donations totaling $32,500, according to filings with the Campaign Finance Board. Canter Fitzgerald made eight donations for a combined total of $28,000.

Several political action committees made significant contributions to Hevesi’s campaign. One of the largest such contributors was Liberty PAC of Farmingdale, L.I., an organization headed by Eugene Iovine, a construction and electrical contractor. The second was the Old Country PAC of neighboring Hicksville.

Liberty made two contributions totaling $8,650 in 1998, the largest — $7,700 — on Feb. 5. On the same day, the Old Country PAC also donated $7,700. It appears that neither organization listed any identifying information other than the name of the town with the Campaign Finance Board.

Hevesi’s campaign office failed to return calls by press time on the nature of the two organizations.

Also among the larger PAC contributors were the Plumbers Local #1 in Howard Beach, the Mason Tenders District Council, District Council 37 and The Friends of Dan Hevesi (the candidate’s son).

In raw donations Hevesi has accrued more than $6.2 million, added to that are $581,228 in matching funds from the city. After adjusting for $402,565 in expenses, the Hevesi campaign has accrued just over $6.8 million, according to the Finance Board.

While Hevesi has far out paced his rivals in contributions, his expenditures are frugal when compared to the those filed by Ferrer, Green and Vallone.

Their expenditures have surpassed Hevesi’s, according to filings with the Campaign Finance Board.

Ferrer has raised about $3.4 million and spent $894,408. Green has raised $3.57 million, while spending $651,012. Vallone has raised $3,418,671, while spending $996,665.

Citing Hevesi’s significant lead, Vallone’s campaign manager requested an investigation by the Campaign Finance Board into Hevesi’s fund-raising and spending practices.

The discrepancy, the letter stated, “forces New Yorkers to ask whether the Hevesi campaign has reported all campaign expenditures — or whether he plans to improperly delay such disclosures.”

Campaign Finance Board spokesman Frank Barry said the board has been consistently auditing all of the candidates’ contributions.

“It’s an issue that is going to be looked at throughout the audit process,” Barry said. “It’s continuing throughout the campaign. The final audit won’t be finished until the campaign is over in September or November.”

Hevesi has also come under fire from Mayor Rudolph Giuliani who this month introduced campaign finance reform legislation which would curb contributions from investment firms who invest the city’s pension fund.

The mayor’s news release said his bill, if passed, would “ensure that individuals who stand to gain the most from the investment of city funds do not use campaign contributions to exert undue influence on the investment process,” Giuliani said.

The city comptroller, however, does not have sole influence over investments of the city pensions. Pension fund financing is decided by a city board comprised of the comptroller, the public advocate, all five borough presidents, several unions, and the mayor.

Among Hevesi’s 9,524 contributors were several investment firms, including the Manhattan-based Blackstone Group which donated $8,500, Gruntal & Co. which contributed $12,000, Gruss & Co. with $4,500 and Kohlberg Kravis Robert & Co. also with $4,500.

Reach reporter Jennifer Warren by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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