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Paradise by the LI light
Naturally, Long Island is in paradise.
The Paradise Papers, that is — a cache of files mostly from offshore law firm Appleby, recently obtained by a German newspaper and shared with journalists around the world. Revelations started dripping out this week, including the fact that East Setauket hedge fund Renaissance Technologies LLC and some of its leaders’ foundations have used Bermuda tax dodges.
A Guardian article published Tuesday said Renaissance uses “feeder funds” in tax-haven Bermuda. Documents from the cache also indicate that tax dodges via the Caribbean island were used by foundations associated with Renaissance founder James Simons and former top executive Robert Mercer, who announced last week he would step down from his positions at the fund. The money maneuvers have enraged activists already angry about Stony Brook University’s October resolution to rename the medical school after Renaissance, a recognition of donations past and present (some made by employees whose retirement funds may have benefited directly from this dodge). Even before the Paradise revelations, members of the Three Village-area North Country Peace Group sent a letter to the university on Monday complaining that Renaissance has been accused of avoiding nearly $7 billion in taxes. The Paradise Papers are likely to give the group added ammunition.
These kinds of legal dodges are not something that many Americans can achieve. Renaissance retirement investment funds, for example, saw hundreds of millions of dollars in gains through investment vehicles registered in Bermuda, but the complicated legal arrangement meant the typical taxes on these gains were avoided.
Renaissance sources told The Guardian that other companies do similar maneuvers, but Rockville Centre tax expert Ed Slott tells The Point that “most people don’t have the lawyers and wherewithal to do this.”
Only retirement paradise for some, then. And the maneuvering won’t stop soon: Slott says the Republican tax plan being considered by Congress doesn’t address this issue.
Mercer’s foundation, in particular, has drawn recent scrutiny thanks to its funding of groups like former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon’s Government Accountability Institute, which had significant influence on the 2016 presidential election. Simons, on the other hand, is a top Democratic donor.
Santino abandoned by Hempstead GOP base
Laura Gillen’s stunning defeat of Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino involved small victories across Long Island’s most reliable Republican strongholds.
In almost every election district, Gillen won a larger share of the vote than Rita Kestenbaum, Santino’s 2015 Democratic challenger.
Democrats have a registration advantage of more than 45,000 voters in Hempstead, but Republicans have been much better at organizing in off-year elections. In 2015, that skill helped Santino win nearly 75 percent of the town’s election districts.
Although Gillen didn’t win every district outright this year, she was able to shift the margins — in some places by more than 30 percent.
Some of the biggest shifts were reflected in the most Republican parts of the town, places where Santino was dumped by his base.
Gillen won both of Point Lookout’s election districts, where Republicans outnumber Democrats 2 to 1. In those districts, Santino performed nearly 50 percent worse than in 2015.
In parts of Wantagh, where Republicans outnumber Democrats nearly 3 to 1, Gillen was able to shift the margin by an average of nearly 20 percent.
Even in the town’s most heavily Republican election district — a part of Garden City where Democrats are outnumbered almost 5 to 1 — she was able to shift the vote by 10 percent.
Santino still won more votes in many districts, but Republican defections added up across the town.
Taken together with Gillen’s strong performance around Baldwin, which was mobilized by Democrat Laura Curran’s campaign for county executive, the vote was enough to unseat Santino and give Hempstead its first Democratic town supervisor in more than a century.
Below: A map showing how Hempstead’s election results shifted from 2015 to 2017. Areas shaded in blue voted more strongly Democratic in the 2017 town supervisor race than in 2015; areas shaded in red voted more strongly Republican.
Housing development was a central issue in the Huntington supervisor and town board races this week, with voters choosing two Republican candidates who favor slowing down growth: Supervisor-elect Chad Lupinacci and board member Edmund Smyth.
As a result, the future of the Galleries development — 84 apartments on the Huntington village block that holds Mac’s Steakhouse — appears bleaker.
“I’d be surprised if the Galleries will go forward,” Roger Weaving of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition told The Point.
Town Democrats had already pushed back against the plan.
And now Smyth, who has been outspoken about his opposition to affordable housing, has a platform. Lupinacci told Newsday’s editorial board in an endorsement interview last month that he would like to see commercial and housing development along Route 110 in Melville.
That may mean that Huntington village under GOP control will retain a less “citified” feel, in the words of town party chairwoman Toni Tepe.