Following our report last week about potential voter suppression in the 48th Councilmanic District primary, in which a defeated Ari Kagan suggested Democratic candidate Igor Oberman had undermined the Russian-American vote in order to benefit Republican David Storobin, Kagan has now self-published a roster of allegations against the duo, claiming their negative tactics contributed to his narrow defeat to Chaim Deutsch.
Here’s the cliff notes, with some notes from us in italics. It’s broken up into three part – allegations about Oberman’s campaigning, allegations about his association with Storobin, and complaints about anonymous attacks which he loosely ties to Oberman and Storobin:
Oberman’s negative campaign:
- Oberman spent most of his time, effort and money “to attack” Kagan
- Oberman produced a “disgusting” TV commercial saying he accepted $200,000 from Manhattan developers to destroy affordable housing an rent regulations. A “Secret Mission” mailer went out with the same. (A developer-backed PAC spent about that much trying to influence this election in favor of Kagan, which surely is fair game for criticism. However, Kagan didn’t “accept” any money, nor could he coordinate with the PAC, making the claim a little deceptive. From what we’re hearing in multiple campaigns, the PAC backed candidates supported by the county Democratic club and did not actually evaluate their candidates)
- Oberman booked a radio commercial saying a “journalist cannot run for City Council – only a lawyer can.” (This is the first we’ve heard of this. Can anyone confirm?)
- Oberman sent a mailer claiming Kagan was part of the Communist Party. (That happened. And Kagan was part of the Communist Party. Which, I think, is kind of a prerequisite to being politically active in a communist system, no?)
- Oberman said that Kagan never denied the allegations that he was once a KGB agent. (Kagan claims he did, and points out that as an aide to Congressman McMahon he needed to pass a security clearance.)
Oberman – Storobin connection
- Oberman is a “close social friend” with Storobin (Storobin denied this to Sheepshead Bites, saying they’ve never been to each other’s birthday parties.)
- Storobin made claims that Kagan was incompetant, lazy, solicited bribes, and “I have no brain.” According to Kagan, these claims were repeated by Oberman. (We have not seen materials to back this up.)
- “On September 9, 2013, at 3 p.m. they came together to Brighton 6 Street building to criticize me there.”
- A previous employee of a Storobin campaign distributed palm cards for Oberman near the Shorefront Y on election day.
- Both repeated accusations against me almost verbatim at their radio appearances.
- There were four separate robo-call campaigns with a female voice saying, in Russian, “Don’t vote Kagan, he was a KGB agent.” (I don’t know about four calls, but we did hear these calls went out.)
- There was an anonymous literature drop in Brighton Beach saying that Kagan never worked a full-time job and “no elected officials wanted to hire me.” Kagan says this was likely done by Storobin, who had previously made the same attack against him. He also pointed out that he was offered full-time work for Comptroller Liu, but turned it down. (We can’t verify that.)
- Other attacks made by Storobin also appeared in anonymous Russian language fliers.
- An anonymous robo-call went out on Rosh Hashanah purporting to be from the Kagan campaign with the goal of putting off Jewish voters.
- A flier was distributed with photos of Kagan with Senator Eric Adams and Coney Island activist Sophia Williams, both African American, with Russian text that said, “Don’t vote for Ari Kagan! He is supported by Obama socialists!” Kagan described this as “racist.”
- Postcards were mailed telling voters in Russian that their poll site had changed to a non-existent location.
Here’s how Kagan sums the whole things up: “The bottom line is simple – attacks by Mr. Oberman and Mr. Storobin as well as anonymous calls, flyers and fake post cards played an important role in my defeat.”
“Their goal was clear – to prevent me from winning the Democratic nomination, so Mr. Storobin would run against non-Russian in a heavily Russian district.”
These are some pretty intense allegations. But, at the moment, the evidence is only circumstantial.
We look forward to seeing some hard proof of who was behind some of the more despicable acts, like the apparent attempt at voter suppression.