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The political season is upon us once again. It always interests me as to who the major contributors are of the various candidates. To me, it gives an indication as to where allegiances may lie.
Take, for example, the race for state senator in northeast Queens between incumbent Frank Padavan and challenger James Gennaro. Most politicians accept contributions from businesses and other special interest groups, but what I discovered about Councilman Gennaro's contributors is most startling.
A large part of his contributions comes from developers, builders, contractors and real estate groups. Many of these groups come from outside the district. These contributions, over time, add up to dollar values in the six figure range, according to what I see on the New York State Board of Elections financial disclosure web site.
Why should the voters be concerned about who contributes to Councilman Gennaro or any other candidate for office? In this case, the answer lies in considering what the developers and others in the building industry expect in return for financial and other support. Their contributions are hardly done for altruistic reasons.
Don't they expect special consideration and treatment from Councilman Gennaro should he be elected? Or is their major goal to get rid of Sen. Padavan who has been a thorn in the side to those who want to overdevelop our neighborhoods? It is probably a little of each, in my opinion.
One of the fund-raisers held to raise money for Councilman Gennaro's campaign against Sen. Padavan was hosted by a prominent Douglaston family who owns a development business in the area. Tickets for the event cost between $500 and $5,000 each. Hardly an amount that the average person could afford. This is the same family that wanted to build an over 200-foot-long pier into Little Neck Bay. Sen. Padavan and other community leaders opposed this plan due to environmental reasons. The plans for the pier were ultimately rejected.
Councilman Gennaro also accepted contributions from lawyers who represent clients seeking variances before the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals. These variances often try to overrule building regulations that protect our local neighborhoods. As a civic person, I have testified many times to stop the granting of these variances.
Of course, it is the right of anyone to support whom they choose, but it is interesting to see how things play out. Here is another example.
Councilman Gennaro and Sen. Padavan both support the homeowners in their opposition to the construction of the St. John's dormitory in a residential neighborhood. Both also were involved with the Jamaica rezoning, a plan that caused great concern in the community due to the upzoning aspects of the plan, which would increase the density of what could be built in parts of the Jamaica area.
Councilman Gennaro, however, accepted almost $5,000 in contributions from The Kamali Organization in 2006. These are the developers who are building the St. John's dormitory and were among the proponents of the upzoning aspects of the Jamaica rezoning, from what I have read. Doesn't this give an appearance of a conflict of interest or at least suggest that the contribution should have been returned?
Councilman Gennaro is not the only politician who accepts contributions from developers and others in the building industry. And I don't question his overall honesty and commitment. But the contributions from these special interests does raise questions and ethical issues. Perhaps the solution to this problem lies in a re-examining of campaign financing in general.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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