Who’s Funding Former IDC Members and their Primary Challengers?

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NYS Senate, Jackson, Myrie and Ramos campaigns

Some of the contestants in districts once represented by the IDC, clockwise from top left: Sen. Jesse Hamilton, Jessica Ramos, Jose Peralta, Zellnor Myrie, Marisol Alcantara and Robert Jackson.

 

With additional reporting and research by members of the City Limits Accountability Reporting Initiative for Youth (CLARIFY): Wislady Corcino, Mame Diarra Niang, Janiya Taylor and Rickie Quansah.

It’s been more than two months since the State Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference rejoined the chamber’s mainline Democrats, ending a seven-year split between the two factions.

And while the IDC itself is no longer, an anti-IDC sentiment still lingers—at least among progressive activists organizing against the former rogue Democrats, and among the several candidates vying to unseat some of the former IDC-ers in the September primary election.

Still, all eight of the lawmakers who previously made up the breakaway group were endorsed last month by Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and they’ve garnered backing from elsewhere, too: both Sen. Marisol Alcantara and Sen. Jose Peralta were endorsed this spring by the firefighters union, while the Teamsters Local 831 recently backed Sen. Jeff Klein, according to news reports.

The candidates challenging these incumbents, however, are continuing to gain support as well. The Working Families Party endorsed seven candidates who are running against the former IDC members, former Rep. Charles Rangel recently backed Klein challenger Alessandra Biaggi and city Comptroller Scott Stringer endorsed Jessica Ramos, who’s running against Peralta.

Whether those challengers sustain their campaigns through the summer and into the September 13 primary will depend a lot on whether they have the resources to remain in the hunt. And whether IDC members win easily or face tight contests will depend, in part, upon the financial advantage they enjoy. In the stiffest challenge to an IDC member mounted prior to this year — the 2014 contest between Jeff Klein and Oliver Koppell — Klein outspent Koppell by a ratio of 6.5 to 1, and won on primary day with 65 percent of the vote.

At last count, the former IDC members enjoyed significant fundraising advantages over their opponents. Klein had more than $2 million on hand in January, compared to opponent Alessandra Biaggi who had just under $6,000, campaign filings show.

“They’ve got all the advantages of incumbency,” Baruch College political science professor Doug Muzzio said of the former IDC members — advantages that include “money, access to the media, connections, organization.”

“They’re going to win,” he said of the former IDC incumbents. “The only race that may be problematic for them is the Robert Jackson race. Robert has represented part of the area and he’s been around for a long time.”

Indeed, Jackson — who served in the City Council representing northern Manhattan from 2002 to 2013, and is currently looking to unseat Alcantara — has raised the most out of the anti-IDC challengers so far, with almost $105,000 on hand as of January.

Muzzio says the average voter probably hasn’t followed the IDC drama well enough for it to impact their decision at the polls.

“It’s really inside baseball,” he said. “So people, they don’t care. They care if their garbage gets picked up. They care if their kids are getting educated.”

Gus Christensen, the chief strategist for No IDC NY, a group organizing to unseat the incumbent senators and support their primary challengers, admits that awareness is a challenge for their campaigns.

But he thinks that’s been changing. He pointed to a derisive town hall meeting last year hosted by Peralta shortly after he defected to the IDC, where the lawmaker was confronted by a room of angry constituents over the choice.

“They [voters] know a lot more now than they did a year or two ago,” Christensen said.

He and other activists argue that for the years it was in power, the IDC stymied progressive legislation by allowing Republican leadership to maintain control of the State Senate, meaning many bills favored by Democrats were never allowed to come to the floor for a vote.

Just because the IDC has dissolved doesn’t mean all is forgiven, Christensen says.

“If somebody does a bad thing and they stop doing it, does that make it okay that they did the bad thing before?” he said. “There has to be consequences for violating the public trust, and for violating the goals of the Democratic Party and Democratic voters across the state.”

Barbara Brancaccio, a spokeswoman representing the campaigns of the former IDC senators, dismissed such criticism.

“The Senate Democrats and state party are unified,” she said in an email to City Limits. “The only people standing in the way of a working Democratic Majority in the State Senate are the WFP and other fringe activists who are clinging to divisive politics and doing nothing to win Republican seats in November.”

For a sense of what interests are giving the most to support the former IDC candidates based in the city, or forking over the most to sustain their challengers, here is a list of the top donors to each. (Two other IDC members represent districts outside the city. David Carlucci, of Rockland County, has Julie Goldberg challenging him in the primary, while Syracuse-area Sen. David Valesky faces Rachel May.)


District 11: College Point, Bay Terrace, Bayside, Little Neck

Queens lawmaker Tony Avella, who was elected to the State Senate in 2010 after serving in the New York City Council, has received 101 campaign contributions since the 2016 election. His campaign committee, Tony Avella for New York, had $102,918.56 on hand in January.

Tony Avella for New York’s Top Donors

Name Amount Who They Are
Senate Independence Campaign Committee $25,000 Fundraising committee started by Sen. Klein and the state’s Independence Party
Avella for Mayor 17,153 Funds transferred from his earlier mayor campaign committee
Joseph Sollano $5,000 Queens-based accountant
Local 6 Committee on Political Education $3,750 Run by Local 6, a union representing hotel, restaurant and club workers
New York Hotel Trades Council $3,750 Union representing hotel and gaming workers in New York and Northern New Jersey
Real Estate Board PAC $2,500 PAC run by the Real Estate Board of New York
Vincent Pacifico $2,500 Head of Vista Food Exchange, a trading company in the Bronx
AFSCME $2,500 Union representing public services employees
District Council 37 PAC $2,200 PAC run by DC 37, a union representing public employees
Manhattan Beer Distributors $2,000 Bronx-based beverage distribution company
Christine Colligan $2,000 President of the Korean American Parents Association of Greater New York, Inc.

That amount included $25,000 transferred from the Senate Independence Campaign Committee, run by the state’s Independence Party and the IDC. Earlier this month, a state Supreme Court judge declared the committee had violated campaign finance law since the former IDC senators were enrolled Democrats and not members of the Independence Party, according to published reports.

What will happen to funds from that committee — which also transferred $79,000 to Klein’s campaign, $104,750 to Alcantara and $20,000 to Sen. Jesse Hamilton — is still unclear. Risa Sugarman, chief enforcement counsel at the state Board of Elections, said they are still reviewing the judge’s decision to determine what steps to take next.

A lawyer for the former IDC senators and the Independence Party said that while his clients disagree with the court’s ruling, they’ll work to bring the Senate Independence Campaign Committee “into full compliance by filing an amended registration reflecting SICC’s status as a Party Committee.”

Avella, meanwhile, is the only former IDC member representing New York City who is not yet facing an active primary challenger. Attorney John Duane told the Queens Chronicle in March that he planned to run against the incumbent, but confirmed to City Limits this week that he was no longer active in race, saying it’s “not the right time.”


District 13: Astoria, Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst, Corona

Incumbent lawmaker Jose Peralta’s campaign committee, Peralta for Senate, received 162 contributions in 2017 and 2018 so far, and had $157,129.46 on hand as of January, according to finance disclosure reports.

His biggest contributors include the PAC run by the Real Estate Board of New York, as well as the LeFrak Organization, the developer behind the massive LeFrak City apartment complex, located in Peralta’s district. A dozen entities run by LeFrak and named after buildings in LeFrak City gave $20,000 to the lawmaker.

“Senator Peralta has been an ardent and steadfast advocate for his communities, and what is good for Corona and Jackson Heights is good for LeFrak’s 20,000 residents and 200 employees in the district,” a spokesman for the developer said in an email. “Senator Peralta was also among the public officials who were instrumental in restoring a local polling location to LeFrak City, so residents can more easily exercise their right to vote.”

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Peralta’s campaign said the lawmaker was proud to have support from LeFrak City and “will continue to work diligently on behalf of its residents to ensure their needs are met.”

“Senator Peralta has been working diligently to fundraise for his upcoming primary and is optimistic that he will meet his campaign goal,” said Jennifer Blatus, the spokeswoman for Peralta for Senate.

Peralta for Senate’s Top Donors

Name Amount Who They Are
12 entities owned by the LeFrak Organization $20,000 Real estate developer behind LeFrak City
Real Estate Board Political Action Committee $10,000 PAC run by the Real Estate Board of New York
Democrats for Education Reform – NY Account $8,000 Pro-charter school education advocacy group
New York State Troopers PAC $5,000 PAC run by the New York State Troopers PBA
NYS Beer Wholesalers Assoc. Inc. PAC $5,000 PAC run by nonprofit association represent beverage distributors
David Rich $5,000 Executive vice president of the Greater New York Hospital Association
Three J’s Pharmacy Inc. $5,000 Drug store in Jackson Heights, Queens
Mason Tenders District Council Greater NY PAC $5,000 PAC run by labor organization representing construction workers, waste handlers and other industries
State Street Associates PAC $5,000 PAC run by Albany-based law firm Hinman Straub
Lawpac of New York $4,500 PAC run by the New York State Trial Lawyers Association

Peralta is facing a potential primary challenge from Queens community organizer Jessica Ramos (a second challenger, Andrea Marra, dropped out of the race earlier this month to throw her support behind Ramos).

Ramos’ campaign committee, Ramos for State Senate, received 313 contributions so far and had $29,687.24 in its coffers as of January, filings show. Her biggest donors have been unions: the United Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union gave her $5,000, the Metallic Lathers Iron Workers Local 46 donated $2,500 and the SSEU Local 371 gave $2,000, records show.


District 20: Brownsville, Gowanus, Crown Heights, Park Slope, Sunset Park

Brooklyn State Sen. Jesse Hamilton has received 246 campaign contributions since the 2016 election, and his committee, Friends of Jesse Hamilton, had $119,602.87 on hand as of January, filings show.

His biggest contributors include the Real Estate Board of New York, which donated $10,000, and LAWPAC, a political action committee run by the New York Trial Lawyers Association which donated $6,000. An additional $6,000 came from New Yorkers for Putting Students First, a committee run by StudentsFirstNY, an advocacy group founded by education reformer Michelle Rhee.

Friends of Jesse Hamilton’s Top Donors

Name Amount Who They Are
Senate Independence Campaign Committee $20,000 Fundraising committee started by Sen. Klein and the state’s Independence Party
Real Estate Board PAC $10,000 PAC run by the Real Estate Board of New York
New Yorkers for Putting Students First $6,000 PAC run by StudentsFirstNY, an education advocacy group founded by Michelle Rhee
Lawpac of New York $6,000 PAC run by the New York State Trial Lawyers Association
CUPAC PAC $5,500 PAC run by the New York Credit Union Association
Eric Adams 2017 $5,000 Political committee run by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams
David Rich $5,000 Executive vice president of the Greater New York Hospital Association
NY Health Care Alliance LLC NY $4,500 Coalition of New York-area nursing facilities
1199 SEIU PAC $3,500 PAC run by the United Healthcare Workers East union
NYS Troopers PAC $3,500 PAC run by the New York State Troopers PBA

Hamilton’s facing a primary election challenge from lawyer and affordable housing advocate Zellnor Myrie, whose campaign committee, Zellnor for New York, took in 673 contributions so far this year. His campaign had $88,149.98 on hand in January, filings show.

Top donors include sustainability analyst Evan Mason, who gave $3,000 to Myrie, who she said she’s known personally for the last several years.

“He’s a really smart guy who’s committed to affordable housing and progressive causes, and energy efficiency and the environment,” Mason said. “He’s a true progressive.”

Zellnor for New York’s Top Donors

Name Amount Who They Are
Evan Mason $3,000 Sustainability analyst
Martine Beamon $2,500 Attorney
Marcia Levy $2,200
Neil T. O’Donnell $2,000 Pennyslvania-based attorney
Neil O’Donnell $2,000
Art/Arthur Chang $1,239.37 Writer, tech consultant
Mamie Stewart $1,800 Business consultant
Mark Khalil $1,100

District 23: Staten Island’s North Shore, Bay Ridge, Coney Island, Brighton Beach

Staten Island incumbent State Sen. Diane Savino is poised to face off in September against legal secretary and community activist Jasmine Robinson. Robinson has yet to file campaign disclosure forms.

Savino’s campaign committee, Savino for New York, had $183,318.97 on hand as of January, records show. She’s taken in 246 contributions since the 2016 election.

That includes substantial funding from unions and from law enforcement interests, including the New York State Troopers and Nassau County Police benevolent associations.

Savino for New York’s Top Donors

Name Amount Who They Are
New York State Laborers PAC – State Fund $7,500 PAC run by the New York State Laborers Union
ATU New York COPE Fund $7,000 Fund run by the Amalgamated Transit Union
NRCC NY Non-Partisan Political Education Committee $5,000 PEC run by the New England (formerly Northeast) Regional Council of Carpenters
PBA New York State Troopers PAC $5,000 PAC run by the New York State Troopers PBA
New York State AFL-CIO COPE Account $4,500 Run by AFL-CIO, a federation of labor unions
NYS Dental Association; Empire Dental PAC $4,000 PAC run by the New York State Dental Association
Nassau County PBA PAC $4,000 PAC run by the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association
AFSCME District Council 37 (DC 37) PAC $4,000 PAC run by DC 37, a union representing public employees
Dennis Novick $3,500 President of telecommunications company TCC Teleplex
Sander Lustig $3,500 Runs Lakeside Manor Home for Adults, a nursing home on Staten Island

District 31: Hell’s Kitchen, Upper West Side, Washington Heights, Inwood

Incumbent State Sen. Marisol Alcantara, who represents much of upper Manhattan, is facing the challenger with the strongest name recognition: former City Councilman Robert Jackson. Her campaign committee, People for Marisol Alcantara 2018, had $144,940.19 in its coffers as of May, having received 326 contributions since her election in 2016, records show.

Her donations include $104,750 from the troubled Senate Independence Campaign Committee, as well as funds from her former IDC colleagues: $10,000 each from Savino’s and State Sen. David Valesky’s campaigns.

People for Marisol Alcantara 2018’s Top Donors

Name Amount Who They Are
Senate Independence Campaign Committee $104,750 Fundraising committee started by Sen. Klein and the state’s Independence Party
Savino for New York $10,000 Sen. Savino’s fundraising committee
Real Estate Board PAC $10,000 PAC run by the Real Estate Board of New York
David Rich $10,000 Executive vice president of the Greater New York Hospital Association
Valesky for Senate $10,000 Sen. David Valesky’s fundraising committee
Great Public Schools PAC $9,000 PAC run by Success Academy Charter Schools head Eva Moskowitz
NYS Pipe Trades Association $7,500 Labor organization representing plumbing industry workers
NRCC NY Non-Partisan PEC $7,500 Committee run by the New England (formerly Northeast) Regional Council of Carpenters
Voice of Teachers for Education (VOTE COPE) $5,700 Campaign fundraising arm of the New York State United Teachers

Challenger Jackson has pulled in more than 4,000 contributions in 2017 and 2018 so far, records show — a number of them listed in filings as “unitemized” because they came from individual donors in small amounts, usually a few dollars at a time.

His campaign, Jackson for Senate 2018, had $104,933.23 on hand as of January, filings show. A spokesman for the candidate described his fundraising as “a people-powered campaign.”

“We are excited by the energy, enthusiasm and number of our supporters,” spokesman Richard Fife said in an email, adding that he estimates the campaign having 7,500 individual contributions when they file their campaign disclosure forms by the July deadline.

Jackson’s biggest donations included $5,125 from former State Senator and current City Councilman Bill Perkins, as well as $4,500 from Comptroller Scott Stringer’s campaign.

Jackson for Senate 2018’s Top Donors

Name Total Amount Donated Who They Are
William Perkins $5,125 NYC Council Member, former Senator
Tenants Politcal Action Committee, Inc. $5,000 PAC run by tenant advocates
Stringer 2017 $4,500 Comptroller Scott Stringer’s Campaign
Sarah O’Neill $2,500 Philanthropist
1588 Amsterdam LLC $2,500
Greg Jobin-Leeds $2,500 Massachusetts-based educator and activist
Local 891 IUOE State EPEC $2,500 Committee run by operating engineers’ union
Maple Heights SUB LLC $2,500
Ken Laguna $2,020

 


District 34: Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Morris Park, Throgs Neck, Pelham

State Sen. Jeff Klein, once leader of the now-defunct IDC, has the largest war chest of its former members, with $2,045,402.88 on hand as of May, according to campaign filings. His committee, Jeff Klein Excelsior, took in 796 contributions since the 2016 election, including $79,000 from his Senate Independence Campaign Committee.

Klein’s biggest donor so far came from a number of entities tied to the Hutchinson Metro Center, a 42-acre office complex located in his Bronx district run by Simone Development Companies. LLCs affiliated with the campus collectively doled out $49,500 to Klein’s campaign. Other large donors include billionaire fertilizer tycoon Alexander Rovt and Voice of Teachers for Education, a voluntary fundraising arm for members of the New York State United Teachers.

Jeff Klein Excelsior’s Top Donors

Name Amount Who They Are
Senate Independence Campaign Committee $79,000 Fundraising committee started by Sen. Klein and the state’s Independence Party
LLCs associated with the Hutchinson Metro Center $49,500 An office complex in the Bronx built by Simone Development
Property Tax Fairness PAC $19,500 PAC run by Albany-based consultant/attorney David Weinraub
Committee for Action for a Responsible Electorate $18,000 Run by the The New York State Health Facilities Association/New York State Center for Assisted Living
Alexander Rovt $18,000 President of IBE Trade, a chemical fertilizer company
Jack C. Bendheim $15,000 Chairman of Phibro Animal Health Corporation
BW PAC $16,000 PAC run by Albany-based consulting firm Brown & Weinraub
New Yorkers for Putting Students First $15,500 PAC run by StudentsFirstNY, an education advocacy group founded by Michelle Rhee
Voice of Teachers for Education $15,500 Campaign fundraising arm of the New York State United Teachers
Macquesten Development LLC $15,000 Real Estate developer based in Pelham, New York
Real Estate Board PAC $15,000 PAC run by the Real Estate Board of New York

“Political donations do not influence, and have never influenced Senator Klein’s opinions, policy positions, legislation or work in the community,” Klein’s campaign spokeswoman Barbara Brancaccio told City Limits in an email.

“Individuals and businesses throughout the Bronx support Senator Klein year after year, and continue donate to his re-election, because he has a demonstrated track record of delivering for his community.”

Klein is expected to face off in the September primary election against challenger Alessandra Biaggi, a former staffer for Gov. Andrew Cuomo who also worked on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Her campaign committee, Committee To Elect Alessandra Biaggi, received 65 contributions and had $5,941.69 on hand as of January, filings show. Her biggest donations were $1,000 from Hudson Westchester Radio and $1,250 from New Hampshire resident Gabriel Dicker.

6 thoughts on “Who’s Funding Former IDC Members and their Primary Challengers?

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  5. Thank you for this article with its information of import.
    As an artist/educator/environmental/climate activist, I am more than interested in our elections – particularly as so much is at stake at this times.
    Keep me posted.

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