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.
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.
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.