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Sen. Kemp Hannon criticized for $100G conflict of interest

Sen. Kemp Hannon at the RXR Plaza in

Sen. Kemp Hannon at the RXR Plaza in Uniondale on Wednesday, July 2, 2014. Credit: Richard T. Slattery

Political advocates on Wednesday criticized Republican State Sen. Kemp Hannon following news reports that he has more than $100,000 in personal investments in companies that would fall under the purview of the committee he chairs.

Hannon, of Garden City, who heads the influential Senate Health Committee, in 2014 invested at least $130,000 in 14 pharmaceutical and other health-related companies, the New York Daily News reported.

Standing outside the Uniondale offices of Farrell Fritz, the law firm where Hannon also works, the advocates on Wednesday called on Hannon to either resign from the Senate or from his job at the law firm.

“We believe there’s just too many conflicts here,” Lisa Tyson, director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, said after the event. “You can’t represent your own financial interests or those of the public at the same time.”

Hannon denies conflict, explains

Hannon, in an interview Wednesday afternoon, denied any conflicts between his investments and his Senate role.

Hannon said his investments over the years in the account in question were “done by a broker. I have nothing to do with it.”

He added that he had closed the investment account this year.

“There is complete compliance — beyond compliance — with the law,” Hannon said of state disclosure regulations.

The issue of state legislators and their outside income has received renewed public scrutiny in recent weeks.

On Monday, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Speaker, a Democrat who for years earned hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from a law firm, was convicted on federal corruption charges.

State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), who reported earnings from a law firm while Senate Majority Leader, and his son, Adam, are on trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on charges of bribery, extortion and conspiracy. They have pleaded not guilty.

Several groups at protest

Tyson was joined by members of the Make the Road Action Fund, the Working Families Party and local units of the Service Employees International Union and the Communications Workers of America. Some held signs reading, “End Pay to Play” and “Who Does Kemp Hannon Work For?”

Hannon criticized the activists’ event as politically motivated, noting that the organizations have ties to and often have supported Democrats, who would like to reclaim a Senate majority in 2016.

“These are people who have run candidates against me. It was a political thing,” he said.

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