Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's re-election committee raised more than $1 million from numerous campaign contributors in the first half of 2012, including thousands of dollars from firms he selected to privatize the county's sewers, buses, and inmate health care, and to negotiate residential tax grievances, according to New York State Board of Election records.
The filings by the Friends of Ed Mangano committee show that the first-term Republican raised $1.07 million in individual and corporate contributions, while another $200,000 was transferred in by the Nassau Republican Committee.
The campaign ended the first half of 2012 with just over $2 million in the bank -- a $500,000 increase since Jan. 1.
"To raise over $1 million in six months is further evidence that hundreds of residents and employers support County Executive Mangano for his efforts to hold the line on property taxes and slash the size of government," said county spokesman Brian Nevin.
But the campaign committee, gearing up for the 2013 election, also spent more than $742,000 on fundraisers, pollsters, consultants and other expenses. In total, the campaign spent roughly 70 percent of every dollar it raised, a figure that political observers say is unusually high.
McLaughlin & Associates, a Manhattan-based firm that specializes in media planning, was paid more than $300,000, records show. Nevin said most of the funds went for television commercials promoting Mangano's policies. The company did not return calls for comment.
In addition, tens of thousands more was spent by the committee shuttling contributors to a March golf fundraiser hosted by the committee in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Among the firms contributing to Mangano was United Water, selected by Mangano in May to manage and operate the county's sewer system if a proposal to privatize the system is approved. United Water contributed $2,500 in February and an additional $1,000 on June 26. The contract would pay United a base fee of $60 million.
United spokesman Rich Henning said Mangano "has exhibited visionary leadership in seeking a public-private partnership to help improve the county's sewer system, reduce the debt and seek investment from the private sector."
Veolia Transportation, awarded a $106 million contract by Mangano last year to operate Nassau's bus service, contributed nearly $4,800. Armor Correctional Health Services, which won an $11 million contract last year to provide health care services to inmates at the Nassau County Jail, contributed $4,500 to the Mangano campaign.
Matthew Smith, president and co-founder of Standard Valuation Services in Mineola, whose firm received nearly $1 million in contracts to negotiate tax grievances in 2011, gave Mangano nearly $26,000 in contributions.
Asked about Veolia's contribution to Mangano, spokesman Andy Kraus said the company has donated to Republican and Democratic parties in Nassau. "Supporting the political process through contributions to both parties is something that Veolia Transportation does in many of the locations around the country in which it operates."
Yeleny Suarez, spokesperson for Armor, said the company believes in "Mangano and his mission for the county. Armor's political contributions are not in return for government contracts. Contracts are awarded to the most qualified company."
"These firms were selected in a transparent process by an independent review committee and confirmed by the legislature," Nevins said.
But Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs accused Mangano of engaging in pay-to-play politics. "The message appears to be that if you want to do business or benefit from an association with the Mangano administration, you need to contribute to his campaign," Jacobs said.
Nevin called the allegations "outrageous and yet another attempt to smear the cost-cutting initiatives County Executive Mangano has implemented to protect residents from a tax hike."
Michael Dawidziak, a political strategist who works primarily with Republicans, said such contributions should not come as a surprise. "If you look at every Nassau and Suffolk county executive race years back, you'll see a large amount comes from people doing business with the county," he said.
But Robert Wechsler, research director of City Ethics, a nonprofit group in Jacksonville, Fla., that provides information to local government ethics programs, said Mangano's contributions may raise eyebrows among voters.
"It's an issue of appearance," Wechsler said. "There may be the appearance that the companies are giving a contribution to get a contract, or rewarding the candidate for helping them get a contract."
Other Mangano contributors included Joseph Cairo, second in command of Nassau Republicans; former Nassau Legis. John Ciotti; Armand D'Amato, brother of former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, and former Nassau County Executive Tom Gulotta, who gave $10,000. Developer Donald Trump gave Mangano $5,000; Gary Melius, owner of Oheka Castle in Huntington gave $2,500 and former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy gave $500.
Levy said he wanted to show his support for "Mangano's tough and correct stance on consolidating the police department. I know . . . the wrath of the unions when you make those tough decisions."
Mangano also received a host of contributions from senior members of his administration and from two members of his Residential Assessment Reform Team.
With Sid Cassese and Laura Figueroa
Campaign finance report: Edward Mangano
Jan. 1, 2012-June 30, 2012
Miscellaneous receipts, including transfers from the Nassau Republican Committee
United Water (selected to run Nassau sewer system)
Veolia Transportation (private operator of Nassau's bus service)
Armor Correctional Health Services (provides medical service for inmates at Nassau County Jail)
Developer Donald Trump
Former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy
Armand D'Amato (brother of former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato)
Source: State Board of Elections