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Dean Hart protests pay-to-play at Edward Mangano fundraiser

Dean Hart, Democratic candidate for New York State

Dean Hart, Democratic candidate for New York State Assembly 15th District, on May 25, 2016. Credit: James Escher

Democratic state Assembly candidate Dean Hart, a Hicksville-based optometrist with a flare for unconventional publicity stunts, showed up again Tuesday at Bethpage State Park to protest pay-to-play politics.

This time he was targeting the annual golf outing and political fundraiser of Republican Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who has yet to say whether he will run for a third term next year.

Last year, when Hart ran unsuccessfully for the county legislature, he also went to the state park to picket the golf outing and fundraiser for the Hicksville Republican club, which is run by Mangano’s chief deputy Rob Walker.

At the time, Hart took photos of numerous signs listing the Hicksville outing’s sponsors, many of whom were county contractors. A subsequent review by Newsday found that at least 87 percent of the money pledged at the fundraiser came from county vendors.

For Mangano’s event Tuesday, however, there was only one sign. It said, “Thanks to all our sponsors and golfers.” No names were listed.

Hart noted in a news release that Nassau Republicans in the past “have prominently displayed on large banners and signs” the names of their sponsors. After the Newsday story, the signs “mysteriously disappeared,” he said.

“If we want a better government, we need leaders with enough backbone to remove themselves from the insidious pay-to-play culture that continues to dominate Long Island politics, not just cover it up,” Hart said.

A spokesman for Mangano could not immediately be reached for comment.

Hart, who is running against incumbent Assemb. Michael Montesano (R-Glen Head), has called for a ban on political donations from people, companies and unions that do business with the county. As he did as a legislative candidate, Hart has promised to not accept any political contributions from such entities in his assembly race.

Hart most recently brought a live donkey to the county Democratic nominating convention. In the past, he has handed out plastic handcuffs to spotlight political corruption and has asked the state comptroller and attorney general to investigate Nassau taxpayer funded mailings.

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