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Raising funds and eyebrows

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky is running for Nassau

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky is running for Nassau district attorney. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Daily Point

Dialing for DA dollars

Long Island Democrats Tim Sini and Todd Kaminsky are spending big on their district attorney candidacies.

Kaminsky, who is running for the Nassau County DA’s post vacated by Madeline Singas earlier this year, spent a combined $2,272,168 from July 11 to Oct. 18, the period covered by the 11-day and 32-day pre-general election filings that were due in October.

Sini, the incumbent in Suffolk, spent $1,826,019 during that period, according to the filings.

Kaminsky, who is locked in a tight open-seat battle with Republican Anne Donnelly, also raised over $1 million for those months, including big donations from Jonathan M. Tisch of the Loews Corp., investor Daniel Loeb, and former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Sini took in approximately $840,000, with prominent contributions from Heath Freeman of hedge fund Alden Global Capital and former U.S. Sen. and New York Knick Bill Bradley.

In Suffolk, GOP standard-bearer Ray Tierney spent close to $450,000 for those months and raised $440,000, including some $200,000 in infusions from Republican and Conservative groups on the town and county level.

In Nassau, Donnelly has logged some $950,000 in expenses during the two filing periods, and raised approximately $984,000, including $720,000 from the Nassau County Republican Committee and nearly $50,000 from cosmetics magnate Ron Lauder.

In that race, strategy/consulting firms, voter contact shops, and Facebook are making out well off both sides. Both Donnelly and Kaminsky are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars from their war chests on TV and online advertisements, the front lines of this campaign.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Fake-vax-card bill gets pushback

A bill that makes falsifying a COVID-19 vaccine card or a digital Excelsior Pass a felony is getting a surprising pushback.

The bill is waiting for Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature. The bill’s advocates say there’s a need to specifically spell out the inclusion of the vaccination cards and, in particular, to address the faking of digital records even though there are existing laws preventing forgery and other similar crimes.

But nearly two dozen advocacy organizations — including the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Center for HIV Law & Policy, Brooklyn Defender Services and the Legal Aid Society of New York City — are encouraging Hochul to veto the bill.

Among the concerns: that the bill would have a "disparate impact" on vulnerable minority and low-income communities, NYCLU Policy Counsel Allie Bohm told The Point.

"It’s just going to become an excuse to stop and criminalize more Black and brown folks," Bohm said, noting that such communities already are "over-surveilled and over-policed."

Bohm argued that in some areas, it’s still difficult for residents to get access to a vaccine, especially in health care deserts that lack pharmacies or urgent care centers. Some individuals also haven’t gotten vaccinated because they worry about missing work due to side effects, she said, a position that seems to justify using a fake card.

Bohm called the bill unnecessary, since existing legislation already makes fraud a crime. But advocates said the federal law doesn’t cover digital passports or cards without a federal logo and state law needs the clarification to leave "nothing to interpretation."

Nonetheless, the NYCLU and other groups sent a letter to Hochul urging her to veto the bill, and to add new measures to make it "easier and safer" for residents to get vaccinated.

"Many of these communities are home to essential workers, who have not been able to work from home during the pandemic and who may seek fake vaccine cards as a solution because they cannot afford to stay home from work," the letter said. "This bill will criminalize individuals from these communities, who have been unable to receive a vaccine, simply for doing what they can to survive."

The letter said the bill is directed at the "criminalization of workarounds borne out of lack of access, awareness and education …"

State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck), who sponsored the bill, rejected those arguments.

"Our economic recovery and people’s lives are hanging in the balance, and it’s breathtakingly dangerous and irresponsible for anyone to suggest it’s okay to lie about one’s vaccination status and put others in harm’s way," Kaplan said in a statement to The Point.

Kaplan added that it was "extremely disappointing" that public health groups, including those that serve patients with HIV, would advocate for defrauding the state’s vaccination mandates, which, she noted, are in place to particularly help those with compromised immune systems.

The bill isn’t yet on Hochul’s desk.

"We’re reviewing the legislation," Hochul spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays said.

Faking vaccine cards has become a business of sorts. In August, prosecutors charged one New Jersey woman with selling 250 forged cards at $200 a piece.

— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

Cheap trick

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Final Point

Bolton-St. Johns has it connections

Gov. Kathy Hochul had planned to be in Lake Placid Tuesday morning to address the State Legislature’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian caucus, but canceled because of a storm that was predicted to bring high winds and rain downstate. The Nor’easter isn’t likely to be a repeat of the flooding disaster of Hurricane Ida in early September, but Hochul wasn’t taking any chances.

But not having to fly from Lake Placid to New York City in bad weather also had the benefit of ensuring she could attend two fundraisers — one in the afternoon hosted by governmental affairs firm Dickinson & Avella and the other Tuesday night at The Capital Grille in Rockefeller Center.

Hochul has a short window to raise money for a run next year and to show some muscle to scare others from the race. But this event is raising eyebrows because the invitations were sent out by a top partner in the lobbying firm of Bolton-St. Johns, key Albany power players with a strong connection to the new administration — just as strong a tie that Bolton has to the previous governor.

Bolton partner Mike Keogh is married to Karen Persichilli Keogh, secretary to the new governor. Georgio DeRosa, also a Bolton partner, is the father of Melissa DeRosa, who was secretary to former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. After her appointment in 2017, the firm stopped holding fundraisers for the governor, according to a spokesman for Cuomo.

When Hochul appointed Karen Keogh, her office said that recusals would be put in place to make sure there were no conflicts of interest with her husband’s role at the firm. Asked if this posed an appearance of a conflict, a political adviser to Hochul emphasized to The Point that the event was planned by the campaign staff. The partner’s invitation, included in the email, did not display the firm’s name. The ask starts with a $5,000 contribution for a "supporter" and goes up to $25,000 for a "host."

— Rita Ciolli @ritaciolli

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