Democrats Also Piped Money Into New York
By Marc Humbert
It wasn't just Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.) and fellow Republicans who channeled national campaign dollars into New York last year to support state and local candidates. Democrats also did it, but on a much smaller scale.
Records filed with the state Board of Elections show the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent $141,000 into the state over the past two years for state legislative and local races.
D'Amato has come under fire because he channeled almost $1 million from the National Republican Senatorial Committee he headed last year into New York for state contests. About $400,000 went directly into Gov. George E. Pataki's campaign account, even though he's not up for reelection until next year. Another $430,000 went to the state GOP.
"It's the same thing that we did, only you didn't read about it on the front pages," grumbled state GOP Chairman William Powers, a former top D'Amato aide, when asked about the Democratic dollars.
In fact, a major difference is that there were no U.S. Senate races in New York last year. There were 31 House races.
"He was taking funds away from other states around the country where there were Senate races. . . . We had a number of competitive races in New York," said Stephanie Cohen, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The DCCC money that flowed into New York's state and local races, with the idea that it could help boost the vote for congressional candidates, came mainly from corporate donors across the country. They included the Archer Daniels Midland Corp., the Boeing Co. and the Distilled Spirits Council.
There was even $237.27 from professional golf's PGA Tour, $2,000 from the Boyd Gaming Corporation of Las Vegas and $1,000 from the California Cable Television Association.
"We gave the money to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and then it became their responsibility," said cable association spokeswoman Peggy Keegan. She said the association didn't know its money had been used in New York.
The DCCC's Cohen said that while some contributors probably didn't know their money would be used in New York, "they all gave with the understanding that their money will go to party-building activities."
"It's just another example of politicians figuring out the numerous loopholes in New York state law and exploiting them," said Andrew Greenblatt, the head of Common Cause's New York chapter. "Senator D'Amato is the king at that, but this shows that both parties do it."
The Democratic funds went to county political committees and into races for everything from the New York City Council to the state Senate and Assembly.
At least $10,000 of the money was diverted into a special campaign committee called "Unity '96" that helped finance Democratic state legislative races in Queens and on Long Island.
Another $25,000 was transferred to the Democratic Assembly Campaign committee, and $25,000 went to the state Democratic Party's Victory '96 committee.
State Democratic Chairwoman Judith Hope said there was no comparison between what D'Amato and the DCCC did in New York. "We had some fiercely competitive races in New York," she said.
Cohen said the Democratic money was sent into New York, in part, to help build a "farm team" for future congressional races and to win state legislative seats needed to help protect Democratic interests when redistricting is done in 2002. The congressional lines are drawn by the state Legislature.
There was no immediate indication that the Democrats violated any New York laws with their contributions.
A check of state Board of Elections records found no evidence that the national Democratic Senate or the Republican House campaign committees were involved in New York's state or local races last year.
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