Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs says that Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano’s re-election committee has broken the state’s campaign finance law—and he’s asked New York Attorney General Jay Schneiderman to investigate.
A spokesman for the Schneiderman’s office confirmed the receipt of Jacobs’ request but would not comment further.
Jacobs claims that last summer his committee decided to look at the more than 70 Republican clubs in Nassau and examine their financing, which he claims they’d never done before. They saw that the Hicksville Republican club, whose chairman, Rob Walker, happens to be chief deputy county executive, was raking in more than $100,000 in 2011 and more than $300,000 in 2012, after previously collecting $29,000 in 2010. Last year the club bought a $204,000 luxury box at Met Life Stadium, where the club hosted fundraising events for Mangano’s re-election.
“It doesn’t smell good,” Jacobs said on a conference call to reporters from Harris Beach law office in Uniondale, which is shared by former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, although Jacobs claimed it’s also his own lawyer’s office.
“The problem here is not just that somebody else paid for the box and that Mangano has benefitted from it and it constitutes an illegal contribution, which it does,” asserted Jacobs, “it is that the entire set of transactions—what the Republicans refer to as a molehill—demonstrates a concerted effort to have donors in essence contribute and help Ed Mangano get re-elected without being identified because their money is being funneled through a straw entity—the Hicksville Republican Club—which is likely not to be reviewed and not likely to be found out.”
And what’s most curious about the $300,000 windfall coming into the Hicksville club, Jacobs said, is that “those people do not want to contribute directly to Mangano’s campaign to pay for a luxury box!”
According to the Democrats’ complaint, which was also filed with the New York State Board of Elections, the Hicksville club took in more than $70,000 in contributions from at least 15 companies—from the DeLea Sod Farms in East Northport to Edgewood Industries in Garden City and Movin’ On Sounds and Security in Franklin Square—with each one giving “well in excess,” Jacobs says, of the $5,000 campaign limit per company, and also with no obvious ties to Hicksville.
“Why is the Hicksville club so lucky?” Jacobs asked.
More egregious, Jacobs asserted, is that Mangano’s re-election committee has collected donations from companies doing business with Nassau County, citing Looks Great Services, Inc., which was recently awarded $68 million in contracts for debris removal following Superstorm Sandy (and came under fire in the Nassau Legislature for mistakenly chopping down 111 trees in the Welwyn Preserve in Glen Cove). According to the complaint, the service’s owner, Kristian Agoglia, gave the Mangano campaign $16,500 in personal contributions, which is permissible, but the company’s $10,745 contribution exceeds the legal corporate limit.
Also in the Democrats’ allegation is a claim that during the 2012 filing period there were more than $110,000 in “questionable” reimbursements to Walker, who got $20,995; Brian Nevin, Mangano’s spokesman, who got $62,328; and Doreen Pennica, the “Friends of Ed Mangano” political committee treasurer who got $6,793 and works for the county.
“There were no details,” Jacobs explained, just “multiple, non-itemized, lump-sum expenditures/payments,” as the complaint calls them, without any explanation other than these three individuals were “fundraising.” As Jacobs interpreted the law, that’s a violation.
Nevins scoffed that he and his colleagues had done anything wrong in their efforts to support their boss’s re-election. Indeed, the Daily News first reported the campaign’s purchase of the “luxury box” at the Met Life Stadium this summer, and no charges were filed by the state’s election board then.
“The only campaign Jay Jacobs knows is one of mudslinging and slander,” says Brian Nevin in a statement to the Press. “All campaign contributions were properly reported and the campaign will take the necessary steps to address any contributions that exceeded the cap. That being said, Jay Jacobs is purely sour over the fact that residents and businesses throughout the Nassau support Ed Mangano for freezing County property taxes for three straight years and creating nearly 4,000 private sector jobs as County Executive.”
Jacobs didn’t see it that way. “This is a large-scale set of violations of the law involving hundreds of thousands of dollars,” the Democratic chairman says.
So far, as the 2013 race for the county executive’s office heats up, Mangano has $2.2 million on hand, and the only announced Democratic challenger, Adam Haber, claims he has more than $2 million in his campaign chest.