Urgency inspires big donations in final days of Queens DA race

Public defender Tiffany Cabán raised $233,469.05 in the three weeks between campaign filings.  Eagle  file photo by Paul Frangipane

Public defender Tiffany Cabán raised $233,469.05 in the three weeks between campaign filings. Eagle file photo by Paul Frangipane

By David Brand


UPDATE [10:48 A.M, June 17, 2019]: This story has been updated to include information about Melinda Katz and Gregory Lasak’s campaign finance disclosure reports.

With eight days to go before the Democratic primary for Queens District Attorney on June 25, contributors are shoveling money into a few of the candidates’ campaign accounts in a last-ditch effort to get out the vote.

Big money continues to pour in from New York’s real estate developers, the local law enforcement community, progressive leaders and prominent elected officials, according 11-day pre-primary reports and 24-notices filed with the state Board of Elections.

Public defender Tiffany Cabán raised the most money in the three weeks between the 32-day and 11-day filing deadlines.

Thousands of small contributors — and a few very big ones — from across the country contributed $233,469.05 to Cabán, according to her 11-day report. Overall, Cabán received 4,518 transactions (some people contributed more than once) in the three weeks since the last filing deadline.

The influx of campaign contributions came after U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez began fundraising for Cabán, shortly after the 32-day pre-primary report filing deadline. Ocasio-Cortez backed up her official endorsement with a message to her massive email list soliciting $3 contributions to Cabán’s campaign. She sent another email a few days later asking for higher sums.

The appeal seemed to motivate some within in Ocasio-Cortez’s own orbit, including her chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti, who donated $1,000.

Other high-dollar contributions to Cabán include $28,000 from billionaire philanthropist and former Marshall Project board member Liz Simons, who had previously donated $10,000; a $5,000 donation from Manhattan-based corporate lawyer Antonia Stolpe; and $2,000 from 2018 gubernatorial candidate and Sex and the City  star Cynthia Nixon.

The BOE began publishing the 11-day pre-primary reports for Borough President Melinda Katz, former state Supreme Court Justice Gregory Lasak, Councilmember Rory Lancman, former Civilian Complaint Review Board Director Mina Malik or attorney Betty Lugo, on Monday morning.

Katz raised $172,152.75 in the three weeks between filing deadlines, including $109,455.00 from 144 individual transactions (some people donated multiple times). The rest of the cash came from corporations, other elected official’s committees and unions.

New York Giants co-owner Jonathan Tisch contributed $10,000. Merryl Tisch, former chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, donated $5,000.

Robert Tucker, a security firm CEO, donated $10,000.

Key elected officials also rolled over big sums into Katz’s campaign coffers.

Speaker Heastie PAC, a political action committee set up by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, pitched in $10,000. Campaign committees for U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks and Hakeem Jeffries contributed $1,000 each to Katz.

Like staff for Cabán, at least one Katz employee also helped fund their boss’ campaign for DA. Borough Hall spokesperson Michael Scholl pitched in $100.

Under state election law candidates must also file notices of every contribution they receive over $1,000 within 24 hours of receiving it after the 11-day report deadline passes.

Those 24-hour notices indicate that Katz received $2,500 from Joe for NY, the state campaign committee for former U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley, ex-boss of the Queens County Democratic Party, which has endorsed Katz.

Katz also took in $7,500 from Maspeth electrician Gary Dawes, who got engaged to former Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley — Joe’s cousin — in 2016. It is unclear whether the pair are now married. People familiar with Elizabeth Crowley say she is considering a run for Queens Borough President — a position that would open up if Katz wins the DA race.

Katz received a $10,000 donation from Tracy Petracca, a human resources consultant who works for Tapfin-ManPower Group. And she took in $2,000 from Beryl Snyder, a member of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, or DASNY, an opaque state authority first created to finance and build colleges. The Times Union called DASNY New York state’s “deepest pork barrel” in 2016.

Throughout the race, Katz, the former chair of the City Council’s Land Use Committee, has been the preferred candidate of the real estate community, accumulating tens of thousands of dollars from developers,

The 24-hour notices suggest the real estate community may be hedging their bets by donating money to Lasak.

Leonard D’Amico of the D & F Development Group gave Lasak $20,000, while real estate developer Gandolfo DiFiore chipped in $5,000.

Lasak’s bread and butter has been the law enforcement community, which continues to fund his campaign. Michael Sapraicone of Squad Security, a private security and investigation firm, contributed $2,218.31 to go with $10,000 he already donated, according to previous campaign filings. The New York State Court Officers Association PAC supplied $3,000, and the Lieutenants Benevolent Association provided $1,500, according to the 24-hour notices.

Lasak raised $144,697.46 between the filing deadlines, including $79,838.00 from individual funders. Nearly half the money he received in the three-week window came from corporations and other interests.

A campaign committee for U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, former Nassau County District Attorney, contributed $38,000 to Lasak.

Lasak’s other major contributions include $2,000 from Aristidis Kourkoumelis, a real estate and land use attorney; $2,000 from New York Community Bank CEO Joseph Ficalora; and $5,000 from Gregory Soros, according to 11-day pre-primary report. George Soros, the famed Hungarian-American philanthropist, has a son named Gregory, though it is unclear whether he is the same person as Lasak’s contributor.         

Lasak also received a $5,000 contribution from Bogopa Service Corp., the parent company of the Food Bazaar Supermarket chain.

Mina Malik raised $39,112.34, including $32,275 from 82 individual donations since her last filing, according to her 11-day report. She has $15,270.30 on hand currently. Contributors included U.S Rep. Hakeem Jeffries’ principal campaign committee Jeffries for Congress — which also contributed to Katz — and St. Louis’ chief prosecutor Kimberly Gardner, both of whom gave $1,000.  

Malik also had three 24-hour filings as of Sunday night, including two totaling $13,500 from her husband Derek Sells, an attorney.

Malik and Sells loaned the campaign $23,000 since the last filing deadline in May, adding to the more than $100,000 she had previously loaned her campaign, according to her 11-day pre-primary report.

Nieves raised $3,250, according to his 11-day report.

Lancman and Lugo’s 11-day reports were not yet published as of 10:48 a.m. on Monday.