Archive for the tag 'campaign finance board'

Oberman

Igor Oberman, who ran in the Democratic primary and then in the general election as the Working Families Party candidate to replace former Councilman Michael Nelson, raised more than $40,000 from donors while using his work phone at Taxi and Limousine Commission job, a Department of Investigation report claims.

Oberman served as an attorney for the commission, but was using the office to make calls for support during his City Council campaign, a violation of city rules, according to the report obtained by Crain’s Insider.

Oberman faced off against Democrat Chaim Deutsch and Republican David Storobin. Deutsch ultimately won the race by a wide margin.

The report also raises questions about his relationship with his campaign’s consultants, the Advance Group, which was simultaneously hired by the co-op Oberman runs, Trump Village 4.

Crain’s reports:

Last April, records show, Mr. Oberman signed off on a six-month, $45,000 lobbying contract with the Advance Group for the portion of the massive Coney Island co-op he runs a part of, Trump Village, at the same time the Advance Group was running Mr. Oberman’s political campaign, separately earning $73,000. Mr. Oberman says the lobbying expenses were entirely legitimate and separate from the campaign.

Both Mr. Oberman, president of the board of directors of Trump Village West, and the Advance Group face separate investigations from the city Campaign Finance Board into their practices during the 2013 election cycle.

The contract between Trump Village 4 and Advance was terminated in September, when Oberman lost the primary.

Separately, the Department of Investigation report, which was forwarded by a source, states that despite a warning not to do so, Mr. Oberman had “excessively used TLC resources” to conduct his political campaign, operate a realty business, and other business related to Trump Village, the massive Coney Island co-op of which he runs a part. Troves of campaign documents were found on his work computer, according to the report.

Mr. Oberman’s $82,500-a-year city job had been to oversee the prosecution of consumer-initiated complaints concerning the agency. But of the 1,900 calls Mr. Oberman made during a five-month period at the beginning of 2013, fewer than one-quarter were related to government business, an examination of phone records found. Mr. Oberman declined last summer to be interviewed by investigators, the report states. Mr. Oberman was dismissed from his job last September, according to a TLC spokesman.

Oberman denied the allegations to Crain’s.

Early in the race, Oberman seemed like a strong contender, having raised more than $94,000 during the first significant campaign disclosure period – $20,000 more than the next candidate. However, allegations later surfaced that Oberman had abused his role as president of the board of the 1,144-unit Trump Village 4 to aid his campaign, including in using the co-op’s funds to send out thinly-veiled campaign materials bearing his face – an allegation still being investigated by the Campaign Finance Board. (Disclosure: Trump Village 4 ran an ad on Sheepshead Bites during this time. It was paid for by Trump Village and designed by Sheepshead Bites. It did not depict Oberman whatsoever – although the material it linked to did feature his name and face.)

The candidate was also the target of allegations from his rivals that he had filed phony complaints with the Campaign Finance Board to mire his opponents in paperwork. By the September primary, five complaints had been made targeting three candidates. It appeared as if four of those complaints came from one campaign – Oberman’s – and were dismissed. The fifth was against Oberman himself, and is the complaint still under investigation by the agency.

Opponent Ari Kagan, who filed that complaint, also accused Oberman of suppressing Russian votes by sending out phony mailers with incorrect polling sites.

Oberman

Three candidates in the race to replace term-limited Councilman Michael Nelson have traded allegations of campaign improprieties to the Campaign Finance Board, burdening their opponents with additional paperwork and spurring them to cry foul.

Five complaints have been made targeting three different candidates. Four of them appear to have come from just one campaign – Igor Oberman’s – and were dismissed. The Campaign Finance Board (CFB) is responsible for overseeing the city’s public campaign finance system, documenting donations and expenditures, and investigating complaints of misused public funds.

The issue most recently came to light in a Daily News report about a so-called “probe” into an alleged “scheme” by Igor Oberman, which they described as “under investigation.” According to the paper, the Board was looking into a complaint made by Ari Kagan’s campaign that Oberman, board president of Trump Village 4, was soliciting campaign donations from seven companies with active contracts at the housing development.

However, the newspaper appears to have trumped up the charges.

According to Kagan, his complaint arose from his concern that Oberman was misusing the co-op’s money to promote his candidacy. In July, using funds from the co-op, Oberman sent mailers to district residents promoting a Family Day event at the co-op, co-sponsored by the Kings Bay Y. The flier had a photo of Oberman and his family.

“[My complaint] is about co-op money. I believe co-op money should be used for improving security, improving elevators, not for promoting candidates,” Kagan told Sheepshead Bites. “I personally received three mailings about him and his family. And none of them were paid by for his campaign, but all were sent to prime Democratic voters.”

Kagan claims Oberman has similarly used co-op money for a variety of advertising, including three large “billboards” around Trump Village. The ads purport to promote the co-op’s amenities and available units, but heavily feature Oberman’s name and face, Kagan said.

If the co-op board’s advertising is found to have intentionally aided Oberman’s campaign, the CFB could fine the campaign tens of thousands of dollars.

Kagan stressed that his complaint did not mention the contractors’ donations. The CFB cannot comment on complaints until a judgement has been made, including confirming or denying whether a complaint exists.

Additionally, if Oberman had solicited contributions from his the co-ops vendors, it may be within the law. Candidates may legally accept contributions from personal or professional contacts so long as no promises or favors are granted, although the ethical implications are up to voters and co-op residents to decide.

“Campaigns may accept contributions from individuals up to the contribution limit for each office. The CFB’s audits of every campaign help ensure that campaigns are complying with the law,” said Matthew Sollars, spokesperson for the CFB.

Kagan’s complaint against Oberman, though, isn’t the first complaint hailing from the 48th District this year. According to Sollars, Kagan has been the subject of three complaints, and Theresa Scavo received another.

Kagan said all of the complaints filed by Oberman were intentionally frivolous, and show an attempt to tie up his opponents with paperwork since the CFB is required to consider all complaints.

“[His latest] complaint was about me not being a journalist. He wrote that I never worked as a journalist on TV or radio before the campaign, Kagan said. “Can you imagine? So of course it was dismissed.”

In fact, all of the complaints against Oberman Kagan and Scavo were unanimously dismissed by the Board. The CFB has not acknowledged the complaint against Oberman, suggesting that it remains under review. (Corrected – see below)

“He filed three complaints against me, all three were dismissed,” Kagan said. “And Theresa Scavo complained to me that he filed complaints against her. I understand hes a lawyer, but why?”

Kagan said he believes Oberman is trying to tie up his campaign with paperwork, rather than allow him to get the word out.

Scavo, in an interview with Sheepshead Bites in July, echoed the same frustration, although she did not identify the source of the complaints at the time.

“This is what they’re doing to me to keep me distracted and busy. All you must do is lodge complaints, and CFB has to investigate,” Scavo said at the time. “It’s a delay tactic, wasting my time while I’m defending myself with all this garbage.”

But Oberman said he’s just trying to keep his opponents honest.

“My opponents were not properly reporting their campaign expenses. Due to my diligence and knowledge of the rules, they were forced to comply with the law. As a Judge, I take campaign finance laws very seriously and am not afraid to speak up when I see wrongdoing,” said Oberman. “I apologize if Ari and Theresa needed to take an extra 10 minutes in order to run transparent campaigns.”

Oberman declined to comment on the allegations made against him, or why promotional materials for the co-op heavily featured his name and image.

Sheepshead Bites submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Campaign Finance Board nearly two weeks ago to provide documents detailing the complaints made and by which campaign. The documents were not produced by the time of this report.

Scavo, Oberman and Kagan will face off tomorrow, September 10, in the Democratic primaries, alongside Chaim Deutsch and Natraj Bhushan. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Find your poll site here.

Correction (3:23 p.m.): A previous version of this post erroneously stated that “all of the complaints against Oberman and Scavo were unanimously dismissed.” In fact, we meant Kagan and Scavo. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

An ABC News investigative report revealed a loophole in campaign contribution regulations that allow millions of dollars to be funneled to legislators in the State Senate. Senator Carl Kruger is one of the chief recipients of the dubious funds, the report indicates.


View a transcript of the video

The investigation, which appeared online this past Monday, shows that Kruger received more than $33,000 from a single real estate developer funneled through nine Manhattan parking garage businesses. Corporate campaign contributions to a single legislator are limited to $5,000 per year, but the developer Leonard Litwin, paid out more than six times that amount to Kruger alone.

ABC News found that soon after our state senator became chair of the powerful finance committee, “the money started rolling in.” Campaign disclosure reports show that in the first six months, he received more than a half-million dollars in contributions, double the donations received in all of the previous year. Kruger’s campaign warchest is by far the largest in the State Senate, with nearly $2.2 million.

The enormous amounts given to Kruger since his reign as finance committee chair reveal a deep weakness in our state system, in which corporate interests are wielding powerful sway over our representative. And from the video, it appears as if our Senator Kruger is only too eager to take his thirty pieces of silver.

Though some say Fidler owes the city $88,550 in campaign finance funds, the councilman says he expects to return around $10,000

Councilman Fidler has told Crain’s Insider that he hopes to return about $10,000 of the $88,550 in taxpayer funds he received from the Campaign Finance Board for last November’s elections.

Fidler drew the ire of city press ever since he received the $88,550 – making his total war chest over $170,000 – in matching funds, with the Daily News going as far as demanding he return every penny of taxpayer dollars. His opponent, Gene Berardelli, only raised about $4,000 and did not qualify for matching funds.

Sheepshead Bites has been in constant communication with Fidler’s staff, and though he’s waiting for a city audit to announce the precise amount, the councilman told us from the beginning that he expected to return “five figures.”

The news comes as the Campaign Finance Board launches hearings to review the efficacy of funds, particularly, according to Crain’s, whether it helped grassroots candidates compete. As the race for the 46th illustrated, the CFB’s matching funds stifled challengers with small fundraising apparatuses, and instead funneled public money to incumbents facing underfunded and overwhelmed opponents.

From Crain’s Insider:

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Daily News published an editorial Sunday pointing the finger at 46th District City Councilman Lew Fidler for owing taxpayers $88,500. Fidler received the money as part of the city’s public funding system for his campaign against Republican Gene Berardelli, and was widely criticized for taking the maximum amount when his opponent had only raised $2,000.

We, too, were shocked at the amount of money Fidler asked for in his massive 41-page affidavit, which included coverage from Sheepshead Bites as evidence of a competitive race. Fidler told the Daily News, “”If it turns out that I don’t need it, I’ll return it.”

That’s why the day after the election we contacted the councilman to see how much he’d be returning. He wrote:

As of today, I have no clue what we spent and we are still paying bills. I can only GUESS that we will be returning a five figure number, but can’t say for sure.

Clearly he has no intention of meeting Daily News’ demand that he return all $88,500. But campaign funds are given out with the expectation that they’ll be spent, so getting five figures back – if that’s what we get – can be seen by some as a positive step.

What do you think? Should Fidler reimburse the city the entire $88,500? Or was he within his right to spend away?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed Gene Berardelli for City Council over the weekend, raising the stakes in his fight against sitting Councilman Lew Fidler.

In the release from the Berardelli camp, Bloomberg cited the candidate’s work with Brigham Street Park and his efforts in downzoning a portion of Sheepshead Bay as reasons hizzonah would lend his support to the first-time candidate for public office.

“I need a fighter like Gene Berardelli in the City Council so we can keep the city moving in the right direction. I strongly endorse Gene Berardelli in the race for City Council and urge the voters of the 46th district to support him too,” said Mayor Bloomberg in the release.

With just a little over three weeks left until the election, the endorsement’s effects are questionable. Berardelli probably wont be fundraising anymore, and his meager $3,000 or so of contributions is hardly enough to do such campaign basics as send mailers to the district’s residents. But he will appear on the Republican ballot in a year in which the Republican mayor has spent record amounts on media and other materials promoting himself and the party.

But while Berardelli is able to ride off the media-inundated coattails of the sitting mayor, it appears his opponent nailed the resources necessary to buy a little attention himself.

Councilman Fidler has received more than $63,000 in taxpayer funds after submitting a statement of need to the campaign finance board. Although Berardelli has not raised nearly enough money to be eligible for matching funds from the city, Fidler was able to get three times the amount he normally would by citing the district’s past turnout for a Republican mayor, as well as submitting 40 pages of documentation that included campaign coverage by Sheepshead Bites.