ALBANY — State Senate Democrats are making a listing and checking it twice — squeezing lobbyists and different donors to decide to an expensive digital fundraiser amid a last flurry of legislative deal-making earlier than the Legislature adjourns for the summer time, The Post has discovered..
And the discover has some invitees describing the fund-raising pitch as an “aggressive” pay to play “shakedown” and a “ransom note.”
“I trust all is well with you. I am looking to let leadership know who will be in attendance at the DSCC Summer e-reception/meeting on June 23rd,” Karen Frankfort, chief monetary officer of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee mentioned within the blunt June 2 e-mail to invitees.
“Please RSVP at your earliest convenience. Kindly note that I am also finalizing the details of an in person event in early August.”
Frankfort additionally said in daring: “Please note that the July 2021 Periodic Filing Cut Off for receipt of contributions is 11:59 p.m., July 11, 2021. Contributions after that will not be reported until January 2022. If you need assistance in facilitating your contributions getting into this filing, please call me at the number below.”
Invitees who acquired the DSCC solicitation for the Zoom fundraiser have been shocked as a result of Frankfort mentioned she would offer a listing of the of names of dedicated contributors to Democratic management earlier than the occasion— Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Deputy Majority Leader and DSCC chairman Mike Gianaris (D-Queens) — sparking pay-to-play allegations.
Stewart Cousins and Gianaris have huge sway over what payments move the Senate or gadgets that make it into the state price range.
The DSCC asks for donations starting from 1,000 to $25,000. The connected invitation to the e-mail exhibits that the “e-summer reception” is hosted by Stewart-Cousins and Gianaris.
“The timing and language in this solicitation is horrible. It’s almost like a shakedown,” mentioned John Kaehny, head of the federal government watchdog group Reinvent Albany.
“The awful part is they’re putting this out during a frenzy of legislative deal-making. This is the opposite of what government reforms are looking for from the state Senate.”
For good measure, Kaehny famous the strong-arm pitch comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces multiple investigations over his dealing with of the coronavirus pandemic and associated e-book deal, in addition to sexual harassment accusations. The Assembly Judiciary Committee opened an impeachment probe of the governor.
Lobbyists with many consumers who’ve points earlier than the Legislature slammed the solicitation as out of bounds.
“Fundraisers are all part of the game from January to March. But the problem is the wording in the email [saying] ‘I’m going to give a list to leadership.’ That’s really problematic.”
“You’re essentially leaning on people, letting them know if your name doesn’t appear there, the leader is going to know. You don’t want to seem not supportive, but you can’t send me this ransom note. ..You’re sending me a ransom to either contribute or be on the bad list.”
“It’s unethical. This is a quid pro quo, this is a shakedown. They have either become very brazen because they’re a supermajority,” added the lobbyist, noting that the Democrats management greater than two-thirds of the seats within the Senate, a veto-proof majority.
Another lobbyist mentioned, “It’s more in your face to say it that way. It’s edgy in light of the timing of it in the legislative session. I don’t think I’ve seen that particular line used that ‘we’ll be sharing this with the leadership’…really? Some things don’t need to be said and that’s the kind of thing that gets people in trouble.”
The DSCC admitted the “I am looking to let leadership know” language used within the e-mail about compiling a listing of donors was inappropriate.
“Our fundraising staff was simply trying to get the list of RSVPs in order to prepare logistics for this event. The wording was unfortunately awkward and should not have been sent in that manner,” mentioned DSCC government director Alex Elmasri.
Meanwhile, the Senate Republican Campaign Committee can also be entering into the act, holding a $500 to $5,000 in-person fundraiser Tuesday night time on the Cornerstone on the Plaza.
Republicans are within the minority and lack the clout of the Democratic majority, who management the move of laws within the 63-member chamber.
But a Democratic supply referred to as the GOP fundraiser within the capital advanced throughout the last days of the laws session additionally “outrageous.”
Watchdog teams have lengthy frowned on the follow that permits state lawmakers to carry dozens of fundraisers whereas the Legislature is in session, making a pay to play tradition and potential for corruption. The fundraisers are sometimes held simply blocks from the state Capitol.
Albany fundraisers rely on massive checks from folks reliant on authorities actions: public worker unions, insurers, the actual property trade, well being care suppliers, enterprise pursuits and not-for-profit teams, in addition to lobbyists searching for entry for his or her shoppers.