Suffolk County Legis. Nicholas Caracappa (C-Selden).

Suffolk County Legis. Nicholas Caracappa (C-Selden). Credit: James Escher

The mess surrounding Suffolk County lawmaker Nicholas Caracappa has gotten messier. 

Caracappa was accused of domestic violence two years ago after he allegedly grabbed his then-estranged wife's neck and obstructed her breathing. Now, he claims to be raising funds for an anti-domestic violence group called the Freebird Organization. The group, unfortunately, isn't registered as a nonprofit or charity with either state or federal officials, and Caracappa directed that payments for the fundraiser go to his PAC, called Suffolk Solutions.

After a Newsday story about the fundraiser was published, Caracappa (C-Selden) postponed the event, saying experts were "reviewing the organization's donation mechanisms."

This is just the latest in a tumultuous two years for Caracappa. A month after his election in 2020, Caracappa was arrested and charged with a felony related to violating an order of protection and with a misdemeanor related to the domestic violence incident. Earlier this year, Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney requested a special prosecutor on the case, which was then turned over to Nassau District Attorney Anne Donnelly. In March, the case was adjourned for a year, after which it could be dismissed.

Questions remain for officials to ask about why Caracappa's ex-wife has declined to cooperate with investigators and find out whether there is any relevance to her position at Suffolk Off-Track Betting Corp. According to LinkedIn, she apparently started in early 2021, shortly after Caracappa was charged.

Caracappa's comments along the way have been troubling. Most recently, he suggested that there are "two kinds of victims of domestic violence" — those "actually" abused and those who "use that against people as a sword instead of a shield." After the Freebird fundraising issue came to light, Caracappa took to social media, first saying he made "minor mistakes," then baselessly calling Newsday "simply predators looking to manipulate their victims."

But the Freebird fundraiser and Caracappa's efforts raise significant legal and ethical questions. Freebird's three known directors all have political ties to the Republican or Conservative parties. Its attorney said Freebird had registered with the state attorney general's Charities Bureau, but the AG's office told the editorial board that Freebird is not yet registered and that it is generally "looking into the matter."

A full investigation is warranted to determine the validity of Freebird as a nonprofit; its potential political connections; the relationship between Caracappa, his PAC and Freebird, and whether any laws have been violated, particularly in terms of a charity's inability to participate in political activity.

As majority leader, Caracappa holds a powerful position in the Suffolk County Legislature. Whether or not his actions are illegal, they are troubling — blurring lines that should be clear and mixing his own personal accusations and political activity by touting an unregistered charity. 

Freebird, Caracappa and Suffolk Solutions must provide answers — now. Otherwise, the Attorney General's office must do so for them.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.