Weprin war chest tops $230K in donations

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What do talk show host Leon Charney, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Peter Kalikow, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and Rudy Giuliani's cousin have in common?

They have all contributed to the campaign war chest of City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis), chairman of the Council's powerful Finance Committee. He is running for a second term representing a district that stretches from Queens Village to Fresh Meadows and from parts of Bayside to Little Neck.

Weprin has amassed more than $230,000 in contributions for the 2003 election cycle since his last disclosure with the Campaign Finance Board July 15, records show. The figure is second only in the city to that of Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Woodside), who has raised $311,567.

"My background goes back in government over 20 years," said Weprin, 47. "A lot of my relationships I accumulated early on in my government career. ... I continued those relationships over the years."

A former Wall Street lawyer, Weprin served as deputy superintendent of banks for New York state and as secretary to the New York Banking Board under Gov. Mario Cuomo in the 1980s. He also has served as a Democratic district leader, carrying on the political legacy - and connections - of his late father, Assembly Speaker Saul Weprin. The councilman's brother, Mark, is the state assemblyman from Bayside.

One of Councilman Weprin's top contributors is Leon Charney, an attorney and former adviser to President Jimmy Carter who hosts a current affairs show on public television called "The Leon Charney Report." Charney donated $2,750 to Weprin's campaign in April 2002, the maximum allowable contribution for an individual.

"I served on the Banking Board when (Weprin) was the deputy superintendent," Charney said. "We became good friends during the term. ... I gave him whatever I could give him because he's a good guy and a friend."

The MTA's Kalikow also donated $2,750. Weprin said he has known Kalikow since 1983, when the two served together on the state Mortgage Agency board.

"It's really more of a personal relationship," said Weprin, explaining that he had opposed Kalikow's positions on the transit fare hike and closing of token booths "regardless of whether or not he's contributed to my campaign."

Weprin is facing a challenge from 23-year-old Republican William Horowitz, who has not raised any funds for the race. The councilman has said he is running on his record of making tough but necessary financial decisions to ease the city out of its fiscal crisis.

Other notable contributors at the $2,750 level include Manhattan real estate magnate Jeffrey Gural, former lieutenant governor candidate Dennis Mehiel on the Carl McCall ticket and Taxpayers for an Affordable New York, a group formed by real estate interests against the 18.5 percent property tax increase, passed in November under Weprin's watch.

"They want to have access," the councilman said of the real estate industry's continuous donations to candidates. "They are still a very strong industry in New York, and they're not mobile ... they can't just move those holdings."

Contributing at smaller levels were unions, such as the Social Service Employees Union, with $1,750; developers Carl, Joseph and Michael Mattone, each with $500; two $500 contributions by William D. Modell of Modell's Sporting Goods; and Queens Museum of Art Director Tom Finkelpearl at $400.

State attorney General Eliot Spitzer, whom Weprin described as a longtime friend, and Catherine Giuliani, the former mayor's cousin who served as his liaison in Queens, each donated $250.

Weprin has spent about $78,000 of his campaign money so far, largely on contributions to the Queens County Democratic Organization, campaign and finance compliance consultants, advertising and fund-raisers.

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:23 pm, October 10, 2011
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