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LI donors give Cuomo $790G in first half

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in West Hempstead in 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in West Hempstead in 2011 Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

ALBANY -- Long Island contributed nearly 14 percent of the $5.8 million that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's campaign war chest received in the first half of 2012, according to campaign finance filings.

Nine individuals gave $10,000 or more, totaling $185,000 out of the $790,659 that Long Island individuals, companies, political action committees and partnerships gave to the Democratic governor's 2014 campaign. The July filing covers contributions from Jan. 12 to July 12.

"I just think he does good work," said Adam Katz, president and chief executive of Talon Air, a Farmingdale-based private jet company. "He stands for noble principles, I think he's made a lot of accomplishments in his time . . . a lot of his initiatives are laudable and he deserves support."

Katz, who contributed $10,000, cited two on-time state budgets and progress on rebuilding the Tappan Zee Bridge as examples of Cuomo's successes.

The largest individual contribution came from Frank Castagna, president of Castagna Realty and owner of the Americana Manhasset mall. Castagna, who supported Rick Lazio in the 2010 Republican primary for governor and then Cuomo in the fall election, gave Cuomo's campaign $65,000.

Castagna said he's known the Cuomo family for decades.

"He's going to get things done," Castagna said of Cuomo. "He's not making political gestures so much as he's hands-on."

Castagna said he was not seeking or expecting anything in return for his contributions. His company won't benefit directly from the contributions.

The biggest Long Island contributions came from multiple limited liability corporations controlled by Glenwood Management, a New Hyde Park luxury apartment developer headed by Leonard Litwin at 1200 Union Tpke. The corporations gave $154,000 to Cuomo. Other corporations controlled by Glenwood also gave a total of $780,500 to Republican and Democratic candidates, political action committees and party committees, according to the July filing.

Some of Glenwood's apartment projects in the past were financed with tax-exempt bonds issued by the New York State Housing Finance Agency because they included some affordable housing units. Tax-exempt financing is a form of taxpayer subsidy that reduces a project's borrowing costs. This year Litwin was named an honorary chairman of the Real Estate Board of New York, a trade organization that helped found the Committee to Save New York, a nonprofit that has supported Cuomo's agenda. Litwin did not return calls seeking comment.

Bill Mahoney, research coordinator for the New York Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, said large contributors often seek to influence policy and get an audience with lawmakers.

"Most of the large donors in the state give not for personal political viewpoints, but because they have some sort of business before the state and they're trying to get access that they wouldn't otherwise be able to have," Mahoney said.

But Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said campaign contributions do not influence the governor.

"Donations of any size play absolutely no role in the functioning of state government," Azzopardi said.

Other large Long Island contributors who gave $10,000 or more include Rocco Trotta, chairman and chief executive officer of LiRoConstruction Management; Neil J. Weissman, who heads Jackson Development, an affordable housing developer; Anthony Bonomo, chief executive officer of Physicians' Reciprocal Insurers, a medical malpractice insurance company; and Lester Petracca, president of Triangle Equities, a real estate developer. With Robert Lewis

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