The Suffolk County Legislature’s majority leader postponed a fundraiser for an anti-domestic violence group on Wednesday after Newsday published a story that raised questions about the event, which would have directed payments to his political action committee.
Legis. Nick Caracappa (C-Selden), whose own domestic violence case is pending, announced the postponement on social media hours before the scheduled event. Flyers had solicited donations payable to his political action committee, Suffolk Solutions, which he had told Newsday would distribute money to community groups, including Freebird Organization, a newly formed not-for-profit.
A flyer posted to his Facebook page said, “Tonight’s White Party has been postponed so every precaution necessary can be taken for a successful venture.”
He also wrote, “We currently have an expert team reviewing the organization’s donation mechanisms to ensure that contributions made to Suffolk Solutions for this event are dedicated exclusively to supporting victims of abuse.”
He promised to hold the event in the future.
In a brief phone interview with Newsday on Wednesday evening, Caracappa confirmed he made the posts on social media, and hung up. He did not respond to a follow-up call.
Nonprofit experts had criticized the event's social media promotions as having the potential for blending charity and political activity, something prohibited by federal law.
Caracappa, 55, a longtime labor leader, said the event was nonpolitical. He was first elected to the legislature in 2020, shortly before he was arrested and charged with obstruction of breathing and criminal contempt for allegedly choking his then-estranged wife.
Caracappa has called the charges fabricated, and a judge in March adjourned his criminal case for a year, after which it will be dismissed if he abides by a protective order and otherwise stays out of trouble.
The flyers for Caracappa’s $150-a-person gala, with sponsorships of up to $5,000, describe Freebird as “advocat(ing) and support(ing) victims of domestic violence and their children.” The organization in June switched its state business status from a limited liability company to a not-for-profit, records show, as it applied for recognition from the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization.
RSVPs for the benefit were to be sent to an "ELECTNICKCARACAPPA" email address.
Freebird attorney Vincent Grande III, of Copiague, wrote in a text message Wednesday that the organization had no comment. He said earlier in the week that the group has registered with the state attorney general’s charities bureau as it awaits a determination from the IRS.
Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) did not return calls for comment. Democratic Minority Leader Jason Richberg (D-West Babylon) declined to comment.
Grande’s earlier statement said Freebird “didn’t solicit any contributions” and “does not know and still doesn’t know what benefit they would receive” from Caracappa’s event.
Laurie Styron, executive director of Charity Watch, a Chicago-based watchdog group, wrote in an email Wednesday that the she hoped the postponement “is a sign that those who are mixing charity and politics have received the message that they would do well to tread very, very carefully.”
Caracappa, who won election with Republican and Conservative backing, said he chose Freebird as the beneficiary of his first fundraiser because of how quickly it connected a woman he referred to shelter and support resources after she alleged abuse from a partner. The organization’s Facebook page also promotes clothing drives, legal services and self-defense classes.
In December 2020, Suffolk police arrested Caracappa at his home. He faced charges after it was determined he violated an order of protection, a felony charge that has been dismissed.
On March 4, acting State Supreme Court Justice John Iliou adjourned the case against Caracappa for one year in contemplation of dismissal and granted Caracappa's ex-wife a one-year order of protection.
With Paul LaRocco