Kaminsky privatizes himself
Three months after a scorching defeat last year in the race for Nassau County district attorney, State Sen. Todd Kaminsky announced he wouldn’t seek reelection as a legislator. Last week, after ending his elected term five months early, Kaminsky announced he would join the major law and lobbying firm Greenberg Traurig in its government law and policy division in Albany.
“As a state senator I learned that in Albany, Greenberg-Traurig has a well-deserved reputation of working across both sides of the aisle at an incredibly high level,” the nearly-three-term senator said in announcing the move.
According to online state lobbying records viewed by The Point, Kaminsky, chairman of the senate’s Environmental Conservation committee, was in a legitimate position to know firsthand of the firm’s activities: Its staffers lobbied him repeatedly on a cluster of legislative issues.
According to one filing cited on the state ethics website, the firm had contact with Kaminsky’s office on behalf of Greenidge Generation Holdings, which does bitcoin mining. That’s a process carried out with the aim of keeping the “books” straight on the cryptocurrency’s blockchain.
The legislation on which the firm lobbied involved a proposed moratorium on cryptocurrency operations. This was approved in both houses during the recent session but has not been acted on by Gov. Kathy Hochul. In the Senate, on June 2, a moratorium measure was approved 35-28, with five other Democrats, including James Gaughran of Syosset, joining Kaminsky as “No” votes, according to the State Legislature’s website.
Later in June, Hochul’s Department of Environmental Conservation denied a permit renewal for Greenidge’s natural-gas-fired plant in the Finger Lakes — an intensely energy-consuming operation that drew protest from local and environmental groups.
Kaminsky told The Point on Monday that he voted against the moratorium, having held a roundtable discussion earlier this year with Senate colleagues on the issue. He said he was concerned that the state could be acting against a nascent industry in New York “without helping the company become green,” which he said might only lead them to relocate elsewhere such as Ohio or Pennsylvania.
According to the state’s Public Officers Law, Kaminsky is barred from lobbying state officials for two years — and indefinitely beyond that on matters in which, as a state officer, he personally took part or actively supervised, unless the state ethics commission says he can do so. In other contacts disclosed as required, Greenberg Traurig lobbied Kaminsky on behalf of the Catholic Conference, representing bishops, in favor of stronger gun-safety measures, and the Greater New York Automobile Dealers on brokering regulations. The list also included the Real Estate Board of New York; the Centene Corporation, a managed care company; Scenic Hudson Inc., a pro-conservation group and 32BJ SEIU 32BJ the maintenance workers’ and cleaners’ union, the records show.
With only a few days at the firm, Kaminsky does not have an assigned client list yet.
— Dan Janison @Danjanison
Busy in the 3rd
There’s a lot happening in New York’s 3rd Congressional District, which features an open race to replace failed gubernatorial candidate Tom Suozzi.
As The Point noted last week, a super PAC largely funded by crypto mogul Sam Bankman-Fried did indeed come in with a big $500,000 to support Nassau County Legis. Josh Lafazan. The huge sum of outside expenditures was for TV and digital ads, according to new federal campaign finance filings. Over the weekend, voters were already starting to see that content with their Hulu shows.
Lafazan himself is out with a new TV ad that his campaign said cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to run. The spot, titled “Another Choice,” criticizes fellow Democratic opponents Robert Zimmerman and Jon Kaiman as “career political insiders.” Zimmerman is a public relations executive and Democratic National Committee member, and Kaiman, currently a deputy county executive in Suffolk, was a former North Hempstead town supervisor. Lafazan, for what it’s worth, was elected to the county legislature at 23, at which time he was already a Syosset school board member.
“Josh is getting a great response from Democratic voters as he takes his message on codifying Roe and banning assault weapons to every corner of this district,” said Lafazan spokeswoman Kim Devlin.
Lafazan also recently sent a mailer from his county legislative office about how he was “WORKING TO SAVE YOU MONEY,” citing various Nassau-specific initiatives. That might pass muster with Nassau’s expansive ethics rules, and using government mailers to boost one’s political profile is a Long Island tale about as old as the Dongan Patent. But there is an irony here: in 2021, Lafazan was among the Nassau legislators who supported a rule change that prohibited legislators from sending mailers to prospective legislative district voters close to elections.
That change went through, but “does not apply to any sitting Legislator running for State or Federal office,” says Mary Studdert, communications director for the legislature’s GOP majority.
Zimmerman campaign spokesman Jason Kaplan criticized the move as “abusing government resources at the expense of the taxpayers to further [Lafazan’s] own political ambition.”
Some of the other Democrats in the hunt are banking on endorsements — particularly union endorsements — to mobilize voters.
On that front, Kaiman has been touting his support from groups like service workers union SEIU 32BJ, as well as the Suffolk Police Benevolent Association and Laborers’ International Union of North America, along with its Local 66.
“Their boots on the ground will help us drive out even more of our supporters during early voting and on Election Day,” said Kaiman in a statement.
He’s not alone among CD3 Democrats in garnering union support: Zimmerman boasts the nod of multiple big groups including New York State AFL-CIO, New York State United Teachers, and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. And progressive activist Melanie D’Arrigo has racked up support from UAW, which represents auto and other workers, as well as a couple of SEIU affiliates.
Waiting at the end of all this primary fighting is Republican George Santos, who ran against Suozzi last time around and doesn’t have a primary challenger. He does, however, think he has a good chance at flipping the seat in this political climate despite the district being home to more registered Democrats. Some observers seem to agree: the University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato, for example, rates CD3 a “toss-up.”
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
Back at you
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More PAC spending
Starting Tuesday, Josh Lafazan won’t be the only Long Island candidate benefiting from the largesse of Protect Our Future, the super PAC funded largely by crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried.
POF will start running TV ads for Laura Gillen as part of a $250,000 cable, digital, and streaming spend for the former Hempstead supervisor, said Mike Levine, a spokesman for the group.
That represents a big outlay for the race in its final weeks, with early voting starting Saturday and the primary day itself coming Aug. 23. It’s also more than any of the Democratic campaigns spent on themselves through June 30, according to federal campaign finance filings.
The Long Island political world had been waiting to see how much Bankman-Fried’s outfit might throw into CD4, given the big sums the super PAC put into other races around the country. But the expectation was that the money would come: both Protect Our Future itself and the Guarding Against Pandemics group founded by Bankman-Fried’s brother had already endorsed Gillen.
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano