Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz is backtracking on details of an overseas trip in which he spent more than $1,300 in campaign funds at a hotel, three restaurants and a gift shop in Barcelona and Germany, bringing guffaws from good government advocates.

The local pol’s European spending, first reported by the New York Observer, covered a three-day spree in February. Cymbrowitz’s campaign finance disclosures show he spent $189 at a souvenir shop in Munich, which he filed away as “office expenses.” In Barcelona, the assemblyman spent $819 at the five-star Hotel Majestic, and nearly $300 over four visits to three restaurants, including the top-rated tapas bar Cerveceria Catalana.

Asked about the spending by Sheepshead Bites following the Observer article, Cymbrowitz spokesperson Adrienne Knoll forward the following statement which was also sent to the Observer:

As the child of Holocaust survivors, I promised my parents I would do everything in my power to help Holocaust survivors and to not let our world fall into the destructive grips of fascism ever again. In keeping that pledge I made more than 50 years ago, I visited Munich, Germany, and had an opportunity to visit the Dachau memorial site, where more than 32,000 Jews and non-Jews were killed. During my visit I was reminded of the fact that one in four of the approximately 140,000 Holocaust survivors in the United States – 38,000 of whom live in Brooklyn, the majority of them in my district – are living at or below the poverty line.

After a number of Russian-speaking survivors in my district were denied benefits from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany due to bureaucratic snafus, my office intervened. To advocate on behalf of these Russian-speaking Holocaust survivors, I met with a board member from the Claims Conference during my trip to Munich, as well as with a number of board members back here in the U.S., in order to rectify the situation and to ensure that some small measure of justice is achieved.

I also met with city officials in Munich to discuss the issue of Neo-Nazism and how the German government works on putting together programs for the Jewish community to help Jewish seniors and children. As the state legislator with the largest Sephardic Jewish population in the state, I was invited to Barcelona to meet with city officials and members of local, prominent Jewish organizations.

The spokesperson added the following, “[Cymbrowitz] went with other legislators. [The Observer] made it sound like a solo excursion and that wasn’t the case.”

However, after follow-up questions asking Cymbrowitz’s office to specify legislators were also on the trip, the spokesperson reversed course on that assertion.

“One correction….he didn’t go with other legislators. Sorry,” Knoll said, via e-mail.

In response to our request for details on his being “invited” to Barcelona, we received another e-mail stating, “He was not invited to Barcelona. That was an error. As the assemblyman who represents a large Sephardic community with roots in Spain, he went to Barcelona to meet with the remaining members of the Sephardic community to talk about the rise in anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism.”

Cymbrowitz’s office did not respond to additional questions about the “city officials and members of local, prominent Jewish organizations” he met with while in Barcelona, and declined to provide an itinerary or appointment calendar.

His office also declined to explain why $189 was spent at a souvenir shop and listed as “office expenses” for the campaign.

The expenses did not involve taxpayer money, and campaign finance regulations allow funds to be spent at the candidate’s discretion, so long as they can explain how it relates to their office they’re running for.

Cymbrowitz’s spending, though, has brought criticism from Common Cause, a good government group that advocates for tighter controls of campaign spending as well as publicly financed campaigns.

“This kind of conduct, using campaign dollars to stay at five-star hotels, to buy expensive souvenirs in exotic places, simply fuels the public cynicism about elected officials and campaigns,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause. “There should be clear delineation between what is and isn’t a campaign expense, especially since so many public officials don’t seem to have their own guidance system about what’s appropriate.”

Lerner said Cymbrowitz’s explanations – and back-tracking – doesn’t pass the sniff test, and reflects poorly on Albany culture.

“It’s kind of amazing. He’s trying to come up with justifications [for travel spending] after the fact. It just seems to be egregious to justify the spending at five-star hotels and restaurants in the interest of Holocaust survivors. It’s really kind of unbelievable,” she said.

She added that she doubted his claim of visiting Barcelona’s small Jewish community to discuss antisemitism, since most contemporary incidents are in central Europe.

“There seems to be tenuous connection [between visiting Spain and his duties as an office-holder] and there should be a full accounting of the facts and a precise record of his activities. Then voters can decide for themselves,” she said.

Related posts

  • NYC Cit

    Scumbag. The usual sort of people that are attracted by a political career… Can we get a new set this November please? At least by throwing this lot out we can send a message to these newcomers that we are paying attention…

    • ArnietheK

      Be careful what you wish for. The newcomers could be worse.

      • NYC Cit

        I’d like to take my chances there… And have an educated pick from the new candidates…

  • MinMaxCorruption

    If cymbro is guilty of corruption of only $1300, the guy should be reelected and congratulated. I figure the average NY politician is probably robbing us of 50k a year if not more, so I go with Cymbro.

    • http://www.mybrooklyn.com/ MyBrooklyn

      Man the whole system is corrupt…start from pigs aka cops to criminals aka law makers and politicians……these people hide behind a system in order to gain and abuse everyday people…..meanwhile they are all above the law but when they catch a small person for doing something what they do on everyday bases that person will pay dearly with high price extortion court appearance and jail time……I had enough with this bs….one of many extortion laws exist since 2004 Driver Responsibility Assessment Fee….people know about this extortion law who drive.

  • Is this the first time he did

    Not the first time and not the last time. Cymbro is did much worse things than this.

  • Alex

    Why am I not surprised? Two years ago, almost the same story came out about Cymbrowitz numerous trips to Turkey. That time he said that it helps him to understand Turkish population in his district. Let me figure. The district is multi-ethnic, so what is going to be his next trip? To Putin’s Russia or to China? Or maybe he will go to Egypt to understand Jewish history better? If so, make sure you take forty-years trip around the desert. http://www.brooklyndaily.com/stories/2014/22/ww-cymbrowitz-turkey-evelyn-laporte-2014-05-30-bk_2014_22.html

  • Sarah

    Is the Assemblyman serious that he’s keeping his pledge to
    his parents to help Holocaust survivors and fight fascism by buying souvenirs
    and staying in a five star hotel? Even
    saying this is an insult to the memory of the six million. I just pray his mother doesn’t find out about
    this.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    I’m confused as to whether there is an issue of ethics or legality here. It would seem to be that what he did was not only unethical but illegal. But the substance of this article leads me to a state of uncertainty regarding that aspect.

  • BrooklynBus

    Remember when Markowitz was mixed up in a similar scandal involving a trip to Turkey? He said a few words about Brooklynand a vacation becomes a business trip. Said his wife would pay her own expenses and then used government money.

    • Jimmy

      He should have just gone to El Greco. accross the street from this fat turd’ s office. He extorts money from local businesses, like a regular Don Vito Corleone. Believe me, he is a mobster. He is a monster and a hardened criminal.

      • Bob

        Cymbro is not a mob boss, but merely a puppet for the Russian Mob and their business interests.

  • jerry

    I think the next trip Cymbrowitz will be taking is to Leningrad , Russia. All expenses paid by the Oceana residents who want there bathroom moved. They have a Kohler exhibit at the Hermitage. Oceana resident & Cymbrowitz perfect together !

    • Bob

      I think that the next trip Cymbro takes should be to prison. He will an excellent bunk mate for Carl Kruger.

  • guest

    Liar.
    Stop trivializing Holocaust.

  • ds

    Hey Steven,

    We’ll forgive you for this, I mean, what’s $1,300 in the sands of time, but can you please get rid of the homeless dude that lives under Ocean Ave overpass?