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Living in the coronavirus bubble

Democratic candidate for New York's 1st district Perry

Democratic candidate for New York's 1st district Perry Gershon speaks with media and voters on Nov. 6, 2018. Credit: Johnny Milano

Daily Point

Giving back

The end of March is here and for congressional candidates, that means the busy close of the fundraising quarter. 

Yet in our coronavirus reality, campaigning is difficult and voters might think more about how to help their  hospital or local restaurant.

Congressional hopeful Perry Gershon has squared the circle, in a way, by promising to match contributions with a personal donation to local charities. 

“Through the end of March, I will personally match every donation made to Perry Gershon for Congress through our small donor email link with a donation of my own to Long Island Cares and East End Food Pantry, our local community food banks,” Gershon wrote in a Wednesday fundraising email. 

Gershon told The Point that more than $1,300 was in as of early Thursday afternoon. Beyond the email links, he also plans to match a separate request for money to go to another food charity. 

Federal Election Commission regulations don’t prevent candidates from making a personal charitable donation after a campaign contribution has been received, an FEC spokesman said. You just have to have the money to do so. 

Gershon, a wealthy businessman, can afford some largesse: Last cycle, he loaned or contributed some $2 million to his campaign against Rep. Lee Zeldin in New York’s 1st Congressional District, according to FEC records. For his part, Zeldin’s campaign sent out an email Thursday encouraging recipients to donate food or money to local charities.

There also could be tax benefits to the setup since contributions to charities can be deductible while those to a federal campaign are not. 

Asked why not just give himself the money this time and let contributors hang onto their wallets, Gershon said his move would bring attention to charitable causes and allow people who want to give to the campaign to also feel good about money going to charity. 

The fundraising email highlighted that 2-for-1 deal: “Chip in now and your donation will help me get elected to Congress, and help our most needy as well!”

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Waiting to get back to normal

Environmentalists near and far, for whom the coronavirus crisis has understandably shifted the focus away from their priorities and taken away many of their tools of persuasion, are eager to swing back into action. 

Right now, there are no meetings at which to testify, no community educational forums to hold, no marches or protests or Fridays for Future sit-outs to stage. Nationally, big protests and other commemorations of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22 have been canceled or moved online amid concerns that online advocacy, while necessary, might be a matter of preaching to those already converted.

Locally, two big topics for which advocacy is derailed for the time being are offshore wind farms whose power is proposed to come on shore on Long Island and Suffolk County’s grant program for residents replacing failing septic systems.

“We were supposed to be starting our community meetings for offshore wind so people had facts not fiction. We’ve been doing these community meetings to talk about people changing out their septic systems and the grant program available. They all got canceled,” Citizens Campaign for the Environment executive director Adrienne Esposito told The Point. “I desperately want to go back to what we were doing, we were building such momentum.”

CCE has had to cancel lectures at Hofstra University and SUNY Old Westbury, community meetings around the Island, and an Earth Day lobby day in Albany. This week, CCE was able to do a Zoom meeting with Long Island Reps. Tom Suozzi and Lee Zeldin, and two Zoom sessions with staff from the offices of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Westchester Rep. Nita Lowey. Among the topics: funding for Long Island Sound initiatives.

But the crisis has taken another toll on CCE. Esposito said she had to lay off half of her staff, a dozen or so people, that do fundraising, education and grassroots work. “We’ve taken a huge fundraising hit,” she said. “Nonprofits are just like small businesses. It’s a business, we’re just not allowed to make a profit.”

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Pencil Point

The real news

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Podcast Point

Life under coronavirus: Long Island's helpers

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is coming to the end of his quarantine after a deputy tested positive for coronavirus. The Point spoke to the West Babylon Democrat about governing through a health crisis while stuck in his kids’ play room, featured in our new “Life Under Coronavirus” podcast.

This is the third episode in a series highlighting stories from interesting Long Islanders dealing with and helping others get through the COVID-19 outbreak.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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