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De Blasio cleans up on campaign donations

Democratic presidential candidate and New York City Mayor

Democratic presidential candidate and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during the 2020 Public Service Forum hosted by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) at UNLV on August 3, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Ethan Miller

Daily Point

Dollars for de Blasio

There may not be very many Long Islanders who want Bill de Blasio to be president enough to donate to his campaign, but many of the ones who are willing to donate gave large amounts, in stark defiance of the candidate’s carefully cultivated image as a progressive fighter. The numbers are so high and the New York City mayor’s chances of winning the Democratic nod so non-existent, that it’s hard not to wonder why these high rollers are donating. In at least some cases, the names and professions of the big donors seem to clear that up.

Based on data compiled by the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C., of all contributions through ActBlue and all donations outside that portal of more than $200, de Blasio’s average contribution from Long Islanders was a whopping $475. The next highest average was Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Seth Moulton’s $84. Of the candidates who raised significant money on the Island, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s average donation was $23, Sen. Kamala Harris’ average was $27, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ average was $18 and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s average was $37. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s average was $26, and the average donation received by all candidates was $28.

And de Blasio’s huge average of his 225 donations (Sanders, by comparison, had 15,513 donors on Long Island) is a New York City thing, not an Empire State anomaly. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s 1,787 donations averaged just $57 apiece, leaving her total collected behind the Big Apple honcho even with nearly eight times as many contributors.

So who are the 41 people who each donated $1,000 or more to de Blasio? Combined, they provided 96 percent of his $106,952 in donations (184 donors who gave less than $1,000 came up with a total of $3,752).

Many seem to be connected to the real estate, development and business ecosystems of New York City.

Christopher Petracca and Elise Petracca, the adult children of New York City real estate magnate and big political contributor Lester Petracca, each gave $2,800. So did Nathan Halegua, owner of Citi-Urban Management Corp. Glenn Albert, a construction and real estate expert at insurance brokerage Foa and Son, gave $1,000, as did Rick Del Mastro, founder of transit and outdoor advertising giant City Outdoor. 

Attorney Michael Ratner and four Fenstermans (Jordan, Samantha, Lori and Howard), all employed by or connected to the law firm Abrams Fensterman, combined to give $19,600. 

Then there are Nassau University Medical Center Chairman George Tsunis and his wife, Olga, who gave $2,800 each. Tsunis also runs real estate and hotel concerns, although his interests have not generally been centered in New York City.

In 2012, Tsunis, a hefty Democratic contributor, was nominated by then-President Barack Obama to be ambassador to Norway. But after the Senate balked for nearly two years, Tsunis withdrew his name from consideration.

At least for now he should be very high on the dance card of one of the nation’s  least popular presidential candidates. 

- Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Big win for Baldwin

Baldwin became the fourth Long Island winner of the state’s downtown revitalization initiative on Tuesday, when it received a $10 million grant to spur downtown redevelopment.

But even as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo celebrated the win with Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, both Democrats, one of Baldwin’s key supporters -- the Republican town councilwoman who represents the area, Erin King Sweeney -- wasn’t at the event announcing the grant.

King Sweeney told The Point she had a previous out-of-state commitment related to her law practice that she could not change after she learned Monday afternoon about the event. 

Curran mentioned King Sweeney at Tuesday’s announcement, specifically citing the importance of King Sweeney’s support. Gillen and Cuomo ran through a list of state lawmakers, and others who supported the project, but neither mentioned King Sweeney. Nonetheless, King Sweeney told The Point she celebrated the Baldwin win as the “jump-start” the community needed.

Baldwin has been the center of many failed redevelopment attempts over the years, most recently one year ago, when developers Engel Burman, of Garden City, and Basser Kaufman, of Woodmere, withdrew their plans for the area around Grand Avenue.

Since then, Gillen and King Sweeney have worked together on an overlay district – a special zone to allow for a new mix of housing, office space and retail in the area, in addition to making the area more walkable and transit-focused.

The two are often at odds on other issues, but joined in pushing for Baldwin to win the state funds. “We showed there was not an ounce of daylight between the two of us,” King Sweeney said, recalling a meeting in June, when she and Gillen participated in a presentation to state and regional officials when the grant decision was being narrowed.

And that, apparently, made a difference in the decision-making. Kevin Law, who co-chairs the Regional Economic Development Council, told The Point that the Gillen-King Sweeney partnership was key to Baldwin’s selection, because he thought it meant the town would be able to “execute and implement a plan.”

If the kumbaya effort keeps up, perhaps when there’s a ground-breaking or ribbon-cutting on Baldwin’s first new project, Gillen and King-Sweeney will both be there to celebrate.

- Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

Epstein and Trump

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Final Point

Targeting the gun-control debate

While President Donald Trump has publicly called for some gun regulation after headline-grabbing mass shootings this summer, his Facebook ads tell a less conciliatory story. 

The Monday after shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Trump’s campaign was running ads saying that some Democrats “are now proudly calling for a REPEAL OF THE SECOND AMENDMENT.”

Ads urge viewers to “Sign the Official Defend the Second Amendment Petition” and one, which went live on Monday, contends that “Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Elizabeth Warren are rallying their base to chip away at the 2nd Amendment.”

Many prominent Democrats have called for gun control, but constitutional change is a different matter. Trump campaign gear advertised in other ads also has the camouflage theme often associated with gun sports and use.

The Trump campaign Facebook ads, which cost $238,405 from Aug. 5-11 alone, also cover immigration, as per Facebook’s political ad archive. 

News outlets associated the El Paso shooter with Hispanic “invasion” language that Trump has often used. Yet Trump campaign ads remained relatively bullish on the subject. 

“I need you to help us FLOOD every Democrats’ office with petitions from American voters telling them to stop playing politics with our security and BUILD THE WALL,” says one ad active in the days after the shootings. 

“The rampant flow of illegal immigration at our southern border is a NATIONAL EMERGENCY,” says another. “We need to make it clear that anyone who wants to enter our country must do so LEGALLY.”

At the same time, in the wake of a man apparently targeting and killing Latinos in El Paso, the campaign has been running Spanish-language Facebook ads urging Hispanics to "STAND WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP!"

They include video of a man holding a sign saying, "Latinos for Trump. Fund the Wall Tour 2019. El Paso, TX."

- Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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