Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's campaign committee — called Friends...

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's campaign committee — called Friends of Ed Mangano — spent $56,000 on food and drink from Jan. 15 through July 14, 2014, according to a financial disclosure report. During the same period last year, the committee spent just under $24,000 on food and drink. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

If an army marches on its stomach, the same may be true for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's campaign committee.

The campaign's most recent financial disclosure report shows that Friends of Ed Mangano spent $56,000 on food and drink -- an average $309.81 every day from Jan. 15 through July 14. That included $4,899 in bulk wine orders -- about $816.52 a month.

The total is more than twice the amount the campaign reported for food and drink during the same period last year when Mangano was a candidate for re-election.

Restaurants patronized by the campaign ranged from diners and delis to steakhouses and bistros. One charge, for $317.74, was for Hooters in Orlando, Florida -- a restaurant known for its "Hooters Girls."

The Mangano fundraising committee reported spending $204 in July, $81 in April and $114 in March for constituent meetings at the Rein restaurant in the Garden City Hotel, even though Rein closed last November.

The report shows the committee sometimes patronized as many as four different restaurants on the same day, some in different parts of the country.

On March 27, the day the campaign charged the Hooters' bill in Orlando, the committee reported a $138 expense at Houston's restaurant in Garden City; $50 at the Chef's Corner Cafe in Mineola; and $150 at the Rose & Crown restaurant in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

The reason given for the local charges was "constituent services meeting" while no explanation was provided for the Florida bills, which were paid by an American Express card.

On April 10, the committee reported spending $81 at Rein (by then replaced by the Polo Lounge and Steakhouse); $528 at STK, a Manhattan steakhouse; $175 at the Seventh Street Gourmet Deli in Garden City; and $164 at the Governor's Comedy Club in Levittown.

Nevin: Dining draws funding

"Unfortunately, it takes money to raise money," Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said when asked about the food and drink bills. He said the new Polo Lounge processed the campaign's debit card under the Rein name. A Garden City Hotel spokeswoman declined to comment.

The $56,077 paid for food and drink came as the Mangano campaign reported nearly $395,000 in expenditures and payments and about $30,000 in "in-kind" contributions, which are considered expenses since the campaign would have had to pay for the services, such as rent for its headquarters, if not donated. During the same six-month reporting period that ended July 15, the campaign raised nearly $994,000.

The food and drink tab does not include large payments for fundraisers totaling more than $46,000 to the Floridays ResortOrlando, the Coral House Inc. in Baldwin and Carlyle on the Green in Bethpage State Park.

During the same period last year, Friends of Ed Mangano spent a total $1.2 million and raised $1.524 million. Slightly less than $24,000 was spent on food and drink.

State campaign finance laws are vague on how contributions can be spent.

Contributions received by a candidate or a political committee "shall not be converted by any person to a personal use which is unrelated to a political campaign or the holding of a public office or party position," the law states without elaboration.

"Almost anything goes," said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, a good-government group.

Foe criticizes spending

Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs said: "I think this campaign is the poster child for what is wrong with campaign finance in New York State. There is no way that those kind of expenditures can be attributed to the running of a campaign for the purpose of electing someone to office."

Nevin responded, "Jay Jacobs should spend more time investigating the candidates he runs for office rather than where the Mangano campaign hosts breakfasts."

Nassau County Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) withdrew from a State Senate race this year amid allegations that he had defrauded his law firm. Denenberg subsequently was charged with mail fraud and has pleaded not guilty.

Lerner said Common Cause New York has recommended that the state adopt a form of campaign financing used in other states. Contributors would donate to a campaign account or to an officeholder account, which would allow elected officials to pay for meetings, events and such things as condolence wreaths that are not directly tied to campaigns, Lerner said.

"Here, where campaign funds cover everything, there is no way to hold people accountable," she said.

The state Board of Elections in March admonished Friends of Ed Mangano and the Hicksville Republican Committee, run by Mangano's chief deputy Rob Walker, for providing insufficient itemization of its expenditures after Jacobs filed complaints against the campaign committee and the Hicksville club.

The state board issued no findings on Jacobs' allegations that the Hicksville club had acted as a secret, unreported source of contributions to Mangano.

During the first six months of this year, the Hicksville Republican Committee reported no expenses, compared with $41,000 during the same period the year before.

Several visits to eateries

The report shows that a favorite restaurant of the Mangano campaign is the Capital Grille in Garden City, where Walker has his own wine locker. The campaign spent an average $2,637 a month at the restaurant, visiting the Garden City location or its counterpart in Washington, D.C., at least once a week on average, records show.

On July 2, the campaign reported spending $89 at the Capital Grille in Garden City and $517 that day at the Capital Grille in Washington, D.C., giving "constituents services meeting" as the reason for the Washington bill.

"The expenses, including Capital Grille, are related to planning and hosting fundraisers," Nevin said. "Purchases of spirits were for holiday gifts."

Many of the meals and other expenses were paid with an American Express card, but no explanation other than "reimbursement" is given for most of these charges.

John Conklin, a spokesman for the state Board of Elections, said the campaign committee does not need to disclose anything more than that the charge is reimbursement for a credit card payment.

Nevin said Mangano does not use an American Express card.

Although Nevin said Mangano did not attend a planned Florida fundraiser in late March, his campaign committee reported spending more than $3,000 in the state during that period, not including about $2,200 for plane fares, rental cars and parking fees.

The expenditures included $90 to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa on the day the Yankees played a practice game against the Phillies, $90 at Disney World's "House of Blues" in Lake Buena Vista and $317.74 at Hooters.

The Mangano campaign listed a $10,000 expense for Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, with no explanation. Nevin did not respond to a question about the expense.

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