Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997.
Sometimes, politicians accused of crimes find themselves shunned by all their one-time allies. Not so for State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) who, despite his indictment last April on corruption charges, has continued to receive support from at least two business figures well-known on Long Island and in New York City.
"Until it's proven he did something wrong, I'm going to back him," said Jerry Wolkoff of Quogue, who on Dec. 16 contributed $10,000 to the Malcolm A. Smith for New York committee, according to the latest state Board of Elections filings.
Smith, 57, maintains his innocence in two separate schemes charged by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. These involve an alleged bid to buy a place on the Republican ballot for New York City mayor, and transactions surrounding a land deal in Spring Valley. Smith, in office since 2000, let it be known last week he plans to run again in November, but now faces at least two primary challengers.
"I take a friend at his word," Wolkoff said Friday of Smith, who served briefly as majority leader. "He said he didn't do anything wrong. . . . I thought he'd be a good mayor also. He has business sense."
Nothing he's read so far has told him to do otherwise, Wolkoff said, adding: "I've been speaking to him and I believe him."
Wolkoff has been in the news many years for his multibillion-dollar Heartland Town Square project, long planned for Brentwood. He's also owner of a Long Island City warehouse, to be razed for high-rise apartments, on the site where 5Pointz, a famous giant wall of artistic graffiti, was painted over in November amid protest.
The Smith committee's only other contributor for the six-month filing period just ended is David S. Mack, senior partner of the Mack-Cali companies, who kicked in $7,500 on Dec. 10. Mack, whose name graces buildings at Hofstra University, served on the boards of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Port Authority before resigning in 2009 in a dispute over then-Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo's probe of the state police. Both he and Wolkoff are big contributors to many campaigns. Mack did not return a call for comment.
D.A. DOUGH: Last week's campaign filings showed Nassau's district attorney with $1.99 million left in her "Friends of Kathleen Rice" committee. While that can't be simply rolled into a Congressional race under federal rules, many of her contributors could be tapped again if she runs for the House. Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota has more than $529,000 after a noncompetitive election.