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Candidates get late campaign contributions

A sticker handed out to a voter on

A sticker handed out to a voter on Election Day in Waterville, Maine. (Nov. 1, 2010) Credit: AP

The name of the Democratic women's political action committee known as Emily's List stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast.

If there were an acronym for late donors it might be EMMA -- Extra Money Means All -- in light of the state election board's list of last-minute heavy hitters. Their contributions must be reported within 24 hours once the last campaign finance reports, due 11 days before the election, are in.

"We have a saying in the business," said Desmond Ryan, a veteran Albany lobbyist and fundraiser. "The smarter money gives early," said Ryan, noting that donors like to get in on the ground floor of a campaign. "But smart money are those who give late. Everything in between is sucker money."

Ryan said the money that comes in at the last minute is from donors who have analyzed the races and are trying to make a difference.

Majority Assembly and Senate fundraising arms raise the most throughout the year and bring in the most in last-minute cash. Assembly Democrats as of Friday had collected a total of $387,800; Senate Republicans, $329,500. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) received $11,000 in late donations.

But more telling is a review of local candidates who received infusions at the last minute. Those donations can be a tipoff to races that have become more competitive than expected for an incumbent or where newcomers are getting help in the final push.

Topping the list of local candidates getting the most last-minute cash is Republican Michael Venditto of Massapequa, who is making his first bid for the Nassau County Legislature in the race for the seat of the late Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa). Venditto, son of Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, had brought in $28,000 in last-minute cash as of Thursday. Venditto faces Joanne Maglione, a registered Republican from Massapequa who is running on the Democratic line.

The late giving in that race can be explained in part by the fact that the contest started midway through the fall campaign, after Schmitt's death Oct. 3. Political observers also say the infusion of late cash indicates how important the race is to local Republicans who, with Schmitt, had a one-seat edge in the legislature. The body is now split 9-9.

As of Friday, Maglione had reported no late donations.

The local recipient with the most late money, 23-year incumbent state Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), had received $19,250 as of Friday. He faces Democrat Ryan Cronin, who reported no late money.

In Suffolk, Democrat Joseph Dujmic of Huntington Station, who is vying to succeed the late Assemb. James Conte (R-Huntington) in the North Shore's 10th District, received $14,300 in last-minute money. He faces Republican Chad Lupinacci of Huntington Station, who filed no report.

On Suffolk's South Shore, GOP newcomer Andrew Garbarino of Sayville got $8,100 from two members of the Rose family, owner of beer distributor Clare Rose, in his Assembly race against former Islip Town Board member Christopher Bodkin, a Democrat. Another Rose family member loaned Garbarino $25,000 at the start of his campaign. Bodkin reported no late money.

Assemb. Philip Ramos (D-Brentwood) pulled in $9,900 in late cash for his campaign against Republican challenger Manuel Troche of Bay Shore, who did not file a report.

Democratic parties in both counties also have received late shots of cash. In Nassau, Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs has personally given his party $100,000 of the $104,000 it has received in late cash.

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