Wealthy donors bolster Cuomo's campaigns

Governor Andrew Cuomo during a press conference to Governor Andrew Cuomo during a press conference to discuss the enforcement of the new driver safety laws. (July 15, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has "perfected" the art of raising a huge campaign war chest as efficiently as possible by focusing on wealthy donors, a public interest group said Tuesday.

Bill Mahoney, a spokesman for the nonprofit New York Public Interest Research Group, said large donors often use their contributions as leverage to gain access to public officials.

"Even if he's making decisions on the merit, he often can end up hearing more from one side of the issue . . . ," Mahoney said of Cuomo. "That's something the average citizen can't do."

Cuomo said he has lived "within the system that exists."

Vowing to keep trying to change it, he added: "As soon as that happens, no one will be more pleased than myself."

Contributions of $100,000 or more made up more than 80 percent of the total Cuomo collected during the first 31 months of the 2014 election cycle, NYPIRG said.

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That was slightly higher than NYPIRG's nearly 79 percent estimate in January.

New York has some of the nation's most generous campaign limits, topping California's, though California's media markets are larger. Cuomo's top donor was Leonard Litwin, a Long Island-based luxury apartment developer.

Litwin, often one of the state's top donors, is president of Glenwood Management. NYPIRG said his holdings contributed $625,000.

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All of Litwin's donations came through limited liability corporations, which can contribute more than companies -- to a limit of $150,000.

The national law firm of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP came in second at $200,000, followed by The Richman Group Inc., a real estate firm headquartered in Greenwich, Conn., which gave $155,000, and Cablevision and holdings, which contributed $140,000, NYPIRG said.

Cablevision owns Newsday.

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