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Memo fever

A pine cone sits on the ground of

A pine cone sits on the ground of the Pine Barrens in Flanders. (Oct. 20, 2011) Credit: Ed Betz

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Daily Point

Night of the living campaign accounts

Gary Ackerman left Congress five years ago and hasn’t been a candidate since 2010, yet his campaign committee remained active until August 2017.

Ackerman’s campaign fund was one of 102 “zombie” committees identified in an investigation posted this week by the Tampa Bay Times. The newspaper used Federal Election Commission records to find campaign honey pots that lived on long after their owners left politics. Ackerman’s committee filed formal termination paperwork with the FEC last year, but the Tampa Bay Times identified nearly $20,000 of spending in the prior three years by the Democrat.

Most of Ackerman’s zombie spending paid for a storage unit — presumably full of pocket-size copies of the Constitution — and office utilities. The campaign contributed $2,000 to former North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman’s failed congressional campaign in 2016 and made charitable contributions to synagogues in Roslyn and Hollis Hills. The committee’s final $722.47 was donated to the Long Island-based LGBT Network.

So what’s the status of the committees of other former members? Steve Israel’s committee spent nearly $40,000 in 2017 and still has $39,990.01 in the bank. Israel, who left office on Jan. 3, 2017, isn’t on the Tampa Bay Times list, which didn’t consider campaign committees to be zombies if they had spending within two years of leaving politics.

Tim Bishop, who left office Jan. 3, 2015, wound down his campaign in 2017 with $7,500 of donations and political contributions, including $500 to Jack Schnirman, now the Nassau County comptroller, and $2,500 to Taking Action for Suffolk County, a Mattituck-based progressive PAC.

Carolyn McCarthy, who also left office Jan. 3, 2015, wound down her committee in May 2015, with a series of political contributions and charitable donations, including $18,000 to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Sam Guzik

Talking Point

Cuomo tiptoeing in pine barrens

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is making good on his promise to help work out a solution to preserve some 1,200 acres of pine barrens in Shoreham and Mastic while making sure a developer who owns some of the Mastic land has a place to build his proposed solar array. That vow came after he vetoed a bill in December that would have preserved the land.

The governor’s staff, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town officials, the Pine Barrens Commission, Assemb. Steve Englebright, Sen. Ken LaValle and environmentalists are working on different parts of a plan that would allow more solar farms to be built while satisfying environmentalists that certain pine barrens spots will remain untouched. A preliminary list of suitable construction sites and a list of properties the Pine Barrens Commission would like to have protected is expected to be available in a month.

The stakes are high for Cuomo. He does not want to be seen as anti-solar. Or anti-trees. Or anti-water — the pine barrens forest protects the cleanest water in Long Island’s aquifer.

Given that this is an election year, with another one of national consequence looming in 2020, this is one needle Cuomo very much wants to thread.

Michael Dobie

Pencil Point

Ransom memo

More cartoons of the week

Bonus Point

Suozzi spotlight gets the hook

Rep. Tom Suozzi might have scored a win for open records this week, but not necessarily for his national profile.

The story involves the latest quarterly report by the federal Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Among other things, the report lays out how much of the war-torn nation is under the Afghan government’s control.

On Monday, for the first time, the SIGAR report was marked “classified.”

Suozzi, who serves on the Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees in the House, fired off a letter of objection to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

His staff also let the letter’s existence be known to CNN, which booked Suozzi for Tuesday at 1 p.m. He told The Point he was quite excited to be scheduled.

However, journalism intervened. Before his appearance, CNN called the Pentagon, which said the “classified” designation had been given in error. The report was released. The story was over — and so was Suozzi’s big CNN moment.

Anne Michaud

Columns