Charities Give to State Campaigns, Despite Law
Since 2005, 55 legislative candidates — a vast majority of them incumbents — received at least one contribution from charities.
Legislators insist there is no connection between their acceptance of these donations and any actions they might take to support the charities’ interests. The charities say they are supporting legislators who do good work, without regard to any assistance they may have provided.
“He’s been a friend for years,” said Michael Crinnin, the executive director of AIDS Community Resources in Syracuse, of Assemblyman William B. Magnarelli, to whom Mr. Crinnin’s group gave $250. “He’s really good on health issues and AIDS issues.”
Mr. Horner said that the Board of Elections should be required to monitor such contributions and that state law should be changed to make it explicitly illegal for politicians to accept them. Currently, the responsibility of avoiding such donations appears to fall solely on the nonprofit organizations.
“All I can say is, ‘Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa,’ “ said Fred W. McPhilliamy, president of Helen Keller Services for the Blind, which donated $2,000 in February 2008 to State Senator Carl L. Marcellino, a Long Island Republican who helped win $55,000 in state aid for the group last year. “We goofed.”
He said that representatives of his group bought tickets to a campaign fund-raiser for Senator Marcellino in Albany at the urging of a lobbyist but “never thought of it as a political contribution.”
Senator Marcellino, who the records showed also accepted money from other nonprofit groups, said, “It was a dumb mistake on our part, and they shouldn’t have done it either.”
The campaign of Senator John J. Flanagan, another Long Island Republican, received $500 in April 2007 from Helen Keller Services, which is based in Brooklyn. He said he was returning the money.
“You try and be diligent,” he said, “but we are by no means perfect.”