Brad Lander of Park Slope raised eyebrows recently when he called backers of Yungman Lee, who is challenging Nydia Velazquez in the Democratic primary, “scumbags.” Lander refused to retract the insult, saying that he was characterizing “LLCs, shell corporations, and special-interest money” and not individuals.
LLCs and “straw donors” have been in the news lately, with questionable financing practices in the 2014 state senate elections in particular coming under heavy scrutiny. These entities allow political donors to disguise their identities, and to give unlimited amounts of money, with varying degrees of illegality.
There is another way in which candidates and their donors work together to disguise the source of political contributions, which is to list spouses of prominent givers as the source of the donation. This method is totally legal, and isn’t necessarily unethical. But it is certainly interesting, especially when the spouse has a different name and is the only member of the marital unit to donate, and when you see it you can make useful assumptions about traces that are being intentionally brushed over.
We see a number of these kinds of spousal donations in Brad Lander’s current 2017 campaign finance filings:
Kate Engelbrecht is a “self-employed author” who maxed out to Lander. She is the wife of Jed Walentas, who owns Brooklyn real estate development company Two Trees Management. Walentas himself was limited to a $250 donation because he does business with the city.
Ayala Barnett, “homemaker,” gave Lander $2750. Her husband Gary Barnett runs Extell Development, which built the 90-story luxury One57 tower. Mr. Barnett does business with the city and was limited to a $250 Lander donation.
Amy Rutkin, Jerry Nadler’s chief of staff, gave Brad Lander $2750. Her wife is Valerie Berlin, the noted political consultant and partner of BerlinRosen, currently under investigation by the office of the US Attorney.
Claire Silberman, “homemaker,” gave Lander’s campaign $1500. She is married to hedge fund magnate Stuart Leaf, who does business with the city. The couple made news last year when they listed their Brooklyn Heights penthouse—combined from nine separate units-- for $32 million.
Kate Linker, “art critic,” gave Lander $1000. Her husband is starchitect Bernard Tschumi, who is responsible for the Lower East Side’s Blue Condominium, which beetles over the Essex Crossing site.
Amy Glosser, “self-employed,” also gave Brad Lander $1000. Her husband is Janno Lieber, president of Silverstein Properties’ World Trade Center development unit.
It probably scans better for Brad Lander, who describes himself as a “community organizer,” not to have a roster of the most powerful people in real estate development and lobbying at the top of his campaign filings. So having their wives sign the checks at least provides some cover for everyone.
ITEM: Melissa Mark-Viverito is getting her budget passed very early—the earliest!—and for some reason this achievement is touted by her office as very important. But the reason budgets notoriously don’t get signed until the last minute is because there is usually a lot of horse-trading and eyeball-gazing going on. Getting the budget passed early simply indicates that someone wasn’t fighting very hard.
It's like if a brain surgeon bragged that he did the "fastest" surgery...ok, but are you sure you sutured everything correctly?
ITEM: Early Sunday morning we all awoke to horrible news of the Orlando massacre. Melissa Mark-Viverito’s Twitter timeline from those hours is a curious window into her thought processes.
At 3:35 a.m. Sunday morning she posted this tweet about her favorite terrorist, Oscar Lopez Rivera:
Then at 5:09 she read about the slaughter in Florida and posted this:
Then a few minutes later, she was back in her usual form:
Ok, we all get it now, that Melissa Mark-Viverito really, really wants Oscar Lopez Rivera to get out of prison. But does she have to step on breaking news about an unfolding terrorist attack with an appeal for the release of a convicted terrorist? Wouldn’t it work better tonally to wait a day or two? Seems unlikely that President Obama was going to pardon him this week anyway.
ITEM: Ruben Wills has been on medical leave for six months, but managed to make it to a street co-naming for deceased Knick Anthony Mason on Saturday. Carrying a cane and wearing casual clothes, CM Wills certainly looks rather peaked. Let’s see if he makes in to Chambers today to vote.