Editorial: Probe donations to Hicksville GOP to clear the air
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The 2013 election season in Nassau County is upon us and the first big skirmish is about contributions to Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican seeking re-election. Jay Jacobs, chair of the county Democrats, is calling for an investigation of Mangano for campaign finance violations.
Mangano's spokesman is biting back and denies it all.
Yes, voters, this is how it's going to be unless we get this sticky mess off the table.
Jacobs wants a criminal investigation because donations to Mangano and the Hicksville Republican Club, run by Rob Walker, Mangano's top lieutenant, seem a little fishy. Jacobs says that $70,000 worth of contributions to Mangano exceeded the $5,000 limit for corporations, some of which do business with the county. If so, that's wrong, but it's a technical foul and Mangano says he will correct any errors.
Yet there's more, and Jacobs contends it's all part of pattern that amounts to criminal violations of election laws. The Hicksville club, one of 70 local GOP operations in Nassau, had bank accounts not significantly different from the others until Walker became top deputy to Mangano. Before Mangano won in 2009, annual contributions were around $29,000. Last year, the club scooped up $300,000, with a good chunk coming from county contractors. And while it's perfectly legal for the Hicksville GOP to spend $200,000 of campaign funds for a premium box at MetLife Stadium to watch Giants games and concerts, it's not a proper expenditure if the tickets were for personal use. Jacobs also says there are no required filings for $100,000 in reimbursements to Walker, Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin and another worker.
Jacobs sent a complaint to the state Board of Elections, which is akin to throwing it in the garbage pail. Now he's trying to get New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman to take a look. If that office has jurisdiction, it should move speedily. If not, federal prosecutors who have been very active investigating campaign financing violations in Brooklyn and the Bronx could get involved. Either way, a speedy resolution is called for.
Trading charges and denials for the next 10 months will overshadow a race that must be about the serious financial challenges to the county.