July 19, 2006
Spitzer's Donors Include an Array of Power Brokers
By DANNY HAKIM and MICHAEL COOPER
ALBANY, July 18 — With more than three months left before New
Yorkers elect a new governor, Eliot Spitzer is already raising money
like an incumbent.
And while Mr. Spitzer, the state attorney general, sweeps in
contributions from a who's who of lobbyists, special-interest
groups, hedge-fund managers and horse breeders, a cursory look at
some of the names in his campaign filings for the first half of the
year, which were released on Monday night, could also lead one to
think he was running for governor of California instead of New York.
In a sign of his broader appeal among Democrats, Mr. Spitzer's West
Coast celebrity donors include two-thirds of the trio who founded
the DreamWorks studio, Steven Spielberg ($5,000) and Jeffrey
Katzenberg ($25,000), as well as the Eagles drummer Don Henley and
the group's manager, Irving Azoff, each of whom gave $10,000 in the
latest filing period. Barbra Streisand and Ben Affleck each gave
$1,000, as did the celebrity hairstylist Vidal Sassoon.
Boldface names also pitched in closer to home, with Mr. Spitzer
receiving $15,000 from George Steinbrenner; $5,000 from the N.B.A.
commissioner, David Stern; $11,000 from Bo Dietl, the former New
York City police officer who is now a celebrity security consultant;
and $15,000 from the actor Edward Norton.
More notable is the amount of money that Mr. Spitzer, who has a
formidable lead in the polls, raised from interest groups that prowl
the corridors of the Capitol. His pitch to voters is that he will
bring to Albany the same combative style that he used in taking on
dubious industry practices at investment banks, mutual fund
companies and insurers — "on Day 1 of a Spitzer administration,
everything changes," he said in his acceptance speech at the
Democratic convention in May.
But many of his largest donors are associated with special interests
that do business with the state. Take horse breeders, who have no
shortage of interest, in part because New York has prominent tracks —
Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga — and because the New York Racing
Association's franchise to run those tracks is up for renewal next
Among Mr. Spitzer's largest donors are Bill Casner, who heads the
Thoroughbred Owner and Breeders Association, Tracy Farmer, a
Kentucky breeder, and Angela Beck, the wife of a prominent Kentucky
breeder. Each donated $50,000, $100 short of the maximum allowable.
Mr. Spitzer also continues to get contributions from lobbyists and
special interests associated with both Democrats and Republicans. In
Albany, power has long trumped ideology when it comes to
Rappleyea Public Affairs, a lobbying firm led by Clarence D.
Rappleyea, a former Republican Assembly minority leader, gave Mr.
Spitzer's campaign $4,000 this month. And Mel Miller Government
Affairs, a lobbying group led by Mr. Miller, a former Democratic
assembly speaker who was in power when Mr. Rappleyea led the
opposition, gave Mr. Spitzer's campaign $4,000 between February and
Mr. Spitzer also received a $1,000 check in June from Armand P.
D'Amato, a lobbyist whose brother, former Senator Alfonse M.
D'Amato, a Republican who is now also a lobbyist, recently told a
private gathering that Mr. Spitzer would make a "great governor."
Robert Congel, a Syracuse developer who has long had grandiose plans
to build an upstate megamall, contributed $13,500 during the most
recent filing period.
Mr. Spitzer — whose efforts as attorney general to police Medicaid
fraud have come under fire from both Republicans and his Democratic
opponent, the Nassau County executive, Thomas R. Suozzi — accepted
contributions from several medical trade organizations that
represent clients in areas his office has investigated. In recent
years, Mr. Spitzer's office has fined several companies that provide
medical equipment to Medicaid recipients, including a company that
sold used equipment as new and a provider who billed Medicaid for
equipment he never supplied. In April Mr. Spitzer's campaign
accepted a $23,000 contribution from the New York Medical Equipment
Providers political action committee.
Mr. Spitzer accepted a $2,500 contribution from Wal-Mart in March.
In June, he came out against legislation that would have required
more businesses to pay health care costs, widely known in Albany as
the "Wal-Mart bill.'' It was not enacted. In 2003, Mr. Spitzer's
office negotiated two settlements with Wal-Mart, including one
following investigations that showed that minors had been able to
buy cigarettes at Wal-Mart. The company agreed to take steps to
prevent tobacco sales to minors and to pay $437,500 to cover the
cost of the investigation.
Mr. Spitzer did return more than $250,000 in contributions, however,
about half of which went back to donors connected to Milberg Weiss
Bershad & Schulman, the giant law firm indicted in May on charges of
making secret payments to plaintiffs. The campaign also returned
$2,500 to the CBS Corporation, which is believed to be a focus of a
continuing inquiry by Mr. Spitzer's office of payola — the practice
of music companies paying radio programmers to play their artists'
"Eliot has built a strong reputation as an independent leader who
has been tough enough to stand up to entrenched special interests on
behalf of the people of the state and will continue to do so," said
Christine Anderson, a spokeswoman for Mr. Spitzer. "Who he raises
money from is not an indicator," she said. "Eliot has always been
independent and will continue to be. He spent seven years fighting
for the people."
Many Wall Street executives would no doubt agree that Mr. Spitzer
has not been as accommodating as most other politicians. But despite
his assaults on Wall Street, he is still drawing money from a wide
range of powerful financiers: Henry Silverman, the chairman of the
Cendant Corporation, gave $50,000; the Silicon Valley venture
capitalist James Clark gave $50,100; and a Miami real estate
developer, Jorge Perez, gave $50,000.
All told, Mr. Spitzer raised $11 million in the first half of the
year, compared with $1.5 million for his Republican opponent, John
Faso, and $4 million for his Democratic opponent, Mr. Suozzi, who
showed fund-raising resilience despite trailing far behind in the
But Mr. Spitzer's rivals clearly have some catching up to do. Even
Mr. Faso's former boss, the lobbyist Charles Manatt, gave to Mr.
Spitzer — though to be fair, Mr. Manatt typically gives to
Democrats. As for Mr. Suozzi, the best Hollywood name he mustered
was Peter Farrelly, director of gross-out fare like "Dumb and