How Lee Zeldin found out he had a problem
When Steven Lupo attacked Rep. Lee Zeldin and his wife, Diana, online earlier this week, he may have unwittingly done the couple a large favor. Zeldin is, of course, the front-runner for the 2022 Republican nomination for governor.
Lupo, a Shirley resident who is president of the William Floyd Democratic Club, posted an accusation on Facebook: Diana Zeldin, under the maiden name "Gidish," had sought and received a $20,208 loan from the Payroll Protection Program established to keep people afloat during the pandemic.
Wednesday night Lupo posted the accusation, along with a picture of a summary of the application and some fairly harsh rhetoric, on his Facebook page and the anti-Lee activist page "Let’s Visit Lee Zeldin," which has about 3,500 followers.
One of Zeldin’s staffers saw it and sent the congressman a link.
The Zeldins say that’s how they found out Diana’s identity had been stolen.
Friday Zeldin told The Point his wife, who works for a law firm in Melville, has never been involved in anything like the "convention and trade show" organizing claimed on the application, did not apply for any such aid, and has never heard of the lender listed, Harvest Small Business Finance LLC.
According to a study from the University of Texas at Austin, released in August, as many as 15% of the 11.8 million PPP loans granted have at least one indication of potential fraud, putting loans of about $76 billion, many of which have been forgiven, in question.
"We are in the process of finding out what happened but my understanding is that someone did use my wife’s name and social security number and our address to get the money," Zeldin said. "We have contacted the Small Business Administration and filed a police report and sent them the report and a picture of her driver’s license," Zeldin said. "That’s what we were told we needed to do to get the process started."
In a phone interview Friday Lupo said he is not great with computer research, but a party activist who is more savvy had been combing through records and found this seemingly smoking gun.
As far as impact, the accusation does not seem to have surfaced much beyond Lupo’s page and "Let’s Visit Lee Zeldin." There, ferociously anti-Zeldin posters, including some whose names are part of the political and activist scene, took the accusation as gospel and piled on.
Lupo said he’ll pull down the posts, now that he knows.
And Zeldin said a review of his wife’s credit check currently shows no other false accounts or fabricated loans.
— Lane Filler @lanefiller
Eyes on the prize
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Many an angle to the AG tangle
Incumbent Tish James’ game-changing decision to seek reelection for state attorney general next year puts many names on many lips, a day after she let go of her short-lived campaign for governor.
By switching contests, the second-term Brooklynite goes instantly from underdog for one post to favorite for another, and from Democratic insurgent in the first race to the party’s preference in the other.
Now that would-be successors don’t see an open seat for the taking, the field for an AG primary thins out — but not all the way, at least not yet.
The common expectation, based on numerous conversations with The Point on Friday, is that Sen. Michael Gianaris, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez, State Sen. Shelley Mayer will forgo a bid for AG.
Those keeping the door open to opposing James include former House impeachment counsel Dan Goldman, activist and Fordham professor Zephyr Teachout and former state Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo.
The potential list remains so tentative right now that some people are feeding speculation that ex-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, with millions in his campaign account, could wade in and pursue the AG job, which he held before, in a grudge match against James. That seems very unlikely. As political commentator Henry Sheinkopf puts it, the wound of Cuomo’s ouster is too fresh and recent to make that seem plausible — even if he was never "the enemy of western civilization" that his haters make him out to be.
Goldman meanwhile becomes a particularly interesting prospect because he’d be a fresh young face (from a wealthy family) who may even wish to campaign statewide to make his name for a future political run.
From his perspective, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie may face less complication within his own conference now that James is standing down for governor. She had solid support for the top job from within his Bronx party organization. Had she stayed in, Heastie would have faced pressure to criticize or distance himself from Gov. Kathy Hochul while negotiating a budget and legislation with Hochul for the first time.
All that buzz is about the Democratic state primary, which unlike the dynamic this year in New York City, might not be the whole game next year.
As one longtime Albany operative points out, Republicans might see James as vulnerable in the general election and the AG position as a way to reclaim at least one seat at the table of state power. But the past year shows that predicting what will be even six months ahead has become a high-risk business.
— Dan Janison @Danjanison