Rep. George Santos outside federal court in Central Islip.

Rep. George Santos outside federal court in Central Islip. Credit: AP/John Minchillo

Daily Point

Will Santos face the music at town hall — or do a song-and-dance?

Back in July, fabulist and fraud defendant Rep. George Santos, attempting to generate positive publicity, tried and couldn’t find a place to hold a town hall-style meeting. Attempts to schedule public gatherings at town-owned sites in Hempstead, North Hempstead and Oyster Bay, where he’s been shunned by Republicans and Democrats alike, had failed. The local preference is to keep him out of sight and off-site.

But this Friday at 6:30 p.m., Santos is slated to hold what’s billed as a town hall gathering at the Westbury Memorial Library in his district. This follows his hosting “mobile office hours” at the site on Sept. 1, which by most accounts didn’t attract too many residents. For this next conclave, protesters are expected to target Santos, currently Long Island’s biggest political lightning rod.

The Point found on Monday that GOP players in Nassau and the Town of Hempstead who want him gone were tight-lipped about the planned event. Library officials shied away from commenting — perhaps having been put in an awkward spot by properly respecting their obligation to allow an elected official to use the space and the fact that the elected official in this case happens to be Santos.

Protesters can be expected. One unsigned flyer replicated on social media displays the location and time of the event with the words, “Constituents Alert.” While Santos’ website encourages those interested to sign up for the event by filling in their names and addresses to confirm their residence in the 3rd Congressional District, the trolling flyer suggests distrust.

“Congressman Santos might be screening constituents with factors other than their residency,” the flyer states. Members of the community may also have concerns about sharing personal information on his website, its author argues, given that he’s out on bail on 13 federal counts. The flyer also jabbed at Santos, who used to claim to be Jewish, for scheduling the event on the Sabbath. One political insider expressed nonchalance about Santos finally landing a meeting place, saying: “First I’ve heard of it.”

Lately the Nassau-Queens Congress member has been appearing at demonstrations against migrant shelters, leading some Santos-watchers to speculate that he and his associates could turn the Westbury event into a de facto rally on that topic. Or, hypothetically, he could conduct the meeting in a traditional way by calling on ordinary constituents to share their concerns.

There’s always suspense in Santos’ district. The nature of this meeting, and the question of whether and when he cuts a plea deal with the federal government, are just the latest unfolding questions.

— Dan Janison

Pencil Point

The gavel

Credit: The Buffalo News/Adam Zyglis

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Final Point

Renaissance bigwig helps fuel anti-Romaine attack ads 

David Lippe, a top official at Renaissance Technologies, the hugely successful hedge fund firm in East Setauket, is probably better known for high finance on Wall Street than local politics.

But this year, Lippe and his big bucks are helping to define the local race for Suffolk County Executive between Republican Ed Romaine and Democrat Dave Calone.

Lippe is a financial backer behind those negative TV ads against Romaine that have been running widely for the past two weeks on cable television and the internet. They’re paid for by a PAC called Advancing Suffolk that lists Lippe as their top individual contributor thus far, according to state Board of Election records.

Lippe, who lives in Setauket, gave $150,000 in August to Advancing Suffolk which is financing the 30-second TV spot against Romaine, the Brookhaven Town supervisor. The ad calls him “Crook-Ed” and blames him for raising taxes. The Point tried to reach Lippe without luck Monday.

Lippe’s involvement in this local Suffolk race appears an exception to political donation patterns in the past by other top officials employed by Renaissance Technologies, notably its founder James Simons, which have been aimed more on the federal level.

This year Simons has already donated $400,000 to a political action fund for President Biden and more than $40,000 to the Democratic National Committee. In 2022, Simons gave a total of more than $12 million to Democratic campaigns.

While Simons generally favors liberals, his former co-worker at Renaissance Technologies, Robert Mercer, has favored conservatives in the past. In 2016, Mercer drew attention with his strong backing of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. In 2020, Mercer and his family invested nearly $20 million in so-called “dark money” for GOP-linked efforts against Biden, according to news reports.

Since 2020, records show, Mercer’s political giving has dwindled, while Simons’ has steadily grown, especially compared with the early years when Renaissance was little known in political circles.

Lippe has also given money to federal candidates, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Calone’s unsuccessful 2016 congressional campaign, records show. But this year’s local race is where his campaign dollars may be having the biggest impact, especially with the frequently run TV campaign implying that Romaine, 76, is corrupt and too old for the job of county executive.

Romaine’s campaign manager, Brendan Sweeney, called the TV ads “a low blow”. Meanwhile, Calone’s campaign is handling its own six-figure video ad campaign offering a more positive view of its candidate as a private businessman and former prosecutor. A spokesman for Calone said they are not affiliated with the Advancing Suffolk group and didn’t know about the negative ads against Romaine until they started appearing.

— Thomas Maier

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