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Attorney general primary draws supporters' big money

ALBANY - Big bucks and notable people are taking sides in the five-way Democratic primary for state attorney general.

Two months before the Sept. 14 vote, the candidates, including Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice, are expected to spend heavily on television commercials, consultants and travel. Donors with deep pockets can provide last-minute cash and entry to wealthy friends, experts said.

The attorney general candidates, as a group, raised $6.5 million in the past six months - excluding personal loans from two of them, according to disclosure forms. Only Rice and state Sen. Eric Schneiderman of Manhattan each collected more than $1 million, and she topped $2 million.

Rice, like the other elected officials hoping to succeed Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, received backing from longtime donors. Her largest sum from mid-January to last week, $74,502, came from people tied to Weitz & Luxenberg, the personal-injury law firm.

Felicia Weitz, wife of founding partner Perry Weitz, gave $55,900 to Rice, the maximum contribution allowed. Last year, Rice hired the couple's son, Justin, to work as an assistant district attorney after graduation from Hofstra Law School.

Eric Phillips, of the Rice campaign, said Justin Weitz was selected for his academic credentials and wanting "to give back to the community that he grew up in . . . He shouldn't be barred from that public service just because someone in his family is active in politics."

Rice also received hefty amounts from James Hagedorn, whose father launched Miracle-Gro plant food; Cablevision Systems Corp., which owns Newsday, and former Nassau County Executive Thomas Gulotta, a Republican. Real-estate and gambling mogul Donald Trump and a lawyer who does work for him gave $25,000 and $40,000, respectively.

Schneiderman was buoyed by the Service Employees International Union and its affiliates, whose issues he has championed and for whom his former wife lobbies. One of the union's national political action committees gave $55,900 and Local 1199, which represents health care workers in New York, produced $40,000. Schneiderman "is a bold reformer and a true progressive," said SEIU chief Dennis Rivera.

Schneiderman's No. 2 donor was his father, Irwin, and the father's relationship with real estate magnate Bernard Spitzer led to $2,500. Spitzer's son, Eliot, served as governor, though sources said Monday he planned to be neutral in the race.

Seeking to match Rice and Schneiderman, former federal prosecutor Sean Coffey announced Monday he would again dip into his bank account for $1 million, bringing his total loans to $3 million. "The bottom line is, our campaign has made tremendous strides and we are on track to victory," Coffey said.

He also has relied on business executives and hedge-fund investors for help, including Charles Phillips, head of software giant Oracle.

The other contenders, Eric Dinallo, a former state insurance superintendent, and Assemb. Richard Brodsky of Westchester, trail in the money race. Interest groups they've worked with back each: insurance for Dinallo and unions and Westchesterites for Brodsky.

The types of donors and amount of giving didn't surprise political scientist Douglas Muzzio of Bernard M. Baruch College because of the expense of running a statewide race, due in part to costly TV ads in New York City.

 

Campaign cash

 

Five Democrats are vying for the nomination for state attorney general. The size of their respective campaign treasuries and largest donors may help determine who prevails in the September primary. How much money each had on hand last week after the January-July reporting period:

ASSEMB. RICHARD BRODSKY OF WESTCHESTER

Cash on hand:$1.6 million

BIG DONORS:

 

  • Lucy R. Waletzky, psychiatrist in Pleasantville, $48,691

 

 

  • East 77th Realty, 79th Street Realty and East 81st Realty, Manhattan real estate businesses, $25,000

 

 

  • NYS Trial Lawyers Association, $15,000

 

 

 

SEAN COFFEY,former federal prosecutor

Cash on hand:$2.9 million*

BIG DONORS:

 

 

 

  • William Ackman, hedge-fund investor in Manhattan, $25,000

 

 

  • Thorton & Naumes, Boston law firm, $20,000

 

 

  • Michael Altman, fine arts dealer in Manhattan, $20,000

 

ERIC DINALLO, FORMER STATE INSURANCE SUPERINTENDENT

Cash on hand: $1.7 million

BIG DONORS:

 

  • Elizabeth Miller, wife of a billionaire hedge-fund investor in Manhattan, $55,900***

 

 

  • James S. Chanos, hedge-fund investor in Manhattan, $50,000

 

 

  • Brian Duperreault, chief executive of Marsh & McLennan insurance in Manhattan, $37,800

 

 

 

KATHLEEN RICE, NASSAU DISTRICT ATTORNEY

Cash on hand:$4.2 million

BIG DONORS:

 

  • Perry & Felicia Weitz and Arthur Luxenberg, personal injury law firm in Manhattan, $74,502

 

 

  • James Hagedorn, chief executive of Scotts Miracle-Gro lawn and garden products, $55,900***

 

 

  • Diane Katz of Great Neck, $55,900***

 

 

  • Marc Kasowitz, Manhattan lawyer for developer Donald Trump, $40,000

 

STATE SEN. ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN of Manhattan

Cash on hand: $2.1 million**

BIG DONORS:

 

 

 

  • Irwin Schneiderman, candidate's father, $55,700

 

 

  • James J. Ross, Manhattan lawyer, $40,400

 

 

  • Laura E. Ross, Manhattan lawyer, $40,400

 


NOTES:

*includes $2 million personal loan from the candidate

**includes $100,000 personal loan from the candidate

***$55,900 is the maximum donation from an individual to a Democrat running in the primary and general election contests for this statewide office

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