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Articles of Interest by Jay B. Itkowitz During his Journalism Career

Election law violations attributed to Troy, Ferraro

Long Island Press, April 14, 1974

Breaches of the election law were apparently committed during 1973 on behalf of two of Queens' top three elected officials.

A review of documents filed with the Board of Elections apparently indicate that the campaign committees of District Attorney Nicholas Ferraro, a former state senator, and Councilman Matthew Troy, Jr., the Queens Democratic leader, illegally accepted contributions from a number of corporations. The review also turned up apparent misdemeanor violations by three Queens Civil Court judges in their campaigns last fall.

Of Queens' three top officials only Queens Borough President Donald R. Manes' committee emerged from last year's campaign with no apparent breaches of the state election law.

The Press contacted the office of State Attorney General Louis Lefkowitz to see if his office would investigate the apparent violations. A spokesman for Lefkowitz refused to comment Friday until the attorney general has a chance to review the matter this week.

"The attorney general can only investigate election law violations. The findings are then turned over to the appropriate district attorney for action," the spokesman said.

What if the district attorney is involved? the spokesman was asked.

By law only the governor would be able to order an investigation superseding the district attorney's jurisdiction, said the spokesman. He refused to make any further comments.

According to Section 460 of the 1973 Election Law it is illegal for a corporation or joint stock association to "directly or indirectly pay or use or offer, consent or agree to pay or use any money or property for or in aid of any political party, committee or organization…or for, or in aid of, any candidate for political office or for nomination for such office, or for any political purpose whatever..."

"Any officer, director, stockholder, attorney, or agent of any corporation or joint stock association which violates any of the provisions of this section, who participates in, aids, abets, or advises or consents to any such violations, any person who solicits or knowingly receives any money or property in violation of this section, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor."

Misdemeanor violations are punishable by up to a year in prison and/or a fine of between $100 and $500.

Documents filed by Friends of Senator Nicholas Ferraro show $700 out of a total of $57,660 was donated by four firms identified by the Secretary of State's office as corporations. Similarly, documents of the Committee to re-elect Troy show $2,750 in contributions from 18 firms identified as corporations by the Secretary of State's office and $150 from two banks. In total, Troy's committee reported $47,360 in receipts.

"There were never any corporate checks," Ferraro said. "My committee was very, very, careful about that," added the former state senator from Jackson Heights.

Ferraro, who insisted he had no personal contact with the contributions received by the committee, said the campaign documents were reviewed by three or four members of his campaign staff.

He was told the names of the firms: General Fire Proof of the Bronx, $100 on Sept. 14, 1973; Rome Restaurant, 46 11 Broadway, Long Island City, $100 on Sept. 26; Moncarol Construction Co. 245-20 Grand Central Parkway, Bellerose, $100 on Oct. 15 and $200 on Oct. 18; and Colony Gardens, 175 Fulton Ave, Hempstead, $20 on Oct. 15.

He insisted that the four firms were not corporations. When told of the confirmation by the Secretary of State's office he said he "did not know how that could happen" and "I don't have any knowledge of this."

Ferraro said he believed the campaign receipts were proceeds from a dinner on his behalf. (State Senator Joseph Galiber of the Bronx himself withdrew himself from being considered for the post of deputy mayor following the disclosure that he accepted about $2,000 from corporations at a fundraising dinner last April when he was running for comptroller.)

Similarly, when contacted by The Press, Troy disclaimed any connection with the financial activities of his campaign committee.

Asked if he gave instructions to and reviewed the records of the committee, he said:

"I haven't reviewed the records. Usually the campaign committee takes care of it. I didn't know they filed it."

Troy also said he "didn't recall seeing it" and that he "may have signed something in advance." Though his signature is not on the campaign documents, he is listed as the chairman of the committee. The document was signed by the treasurer of the committee, Claire Cerrone who could not be reached for comment.

Ferraro was also quizzed about three contributions listed by his committee from judicial candidates. He said the contributions were for dinner tickets which, he added, did not have to be listed.

However, according to section 454 of the Election Law: "No candidate for a judicial office shall, directly or indirectly, make any contribution of money or other thing of value, nor shall any contribution be solicited of him."

The Civil Court judges, who were nominated during the summer and elected to the 10-year, $36,451 judicial seats in November, are: Fred T. Santucci of Richmond Hill, Eugene S. McQuade of Holliswood, and Joseph S. Calabretta of Long Island City.

According to Ferraro's records, Santucci contributed $50 on Oct. 4, 1973; McQuade contributed $100 "by check of Ethel and Walter Lasko" on Sept. 26; and Calabretta contributed $100 on Oct. 15.

When reached, Santucci said he did not remember making any contribution to Ferraro's campaign. However, he added: "It may have been made prior to my becoming a candidate." McQuade also said he never gave a contribution to Ferraro's campaign. He claimed the $100 donation actually came from the Laskes.

"At that time I was the Democratic district leader of the 23rd AD. Laske gave me a check for the dinner and I forwarded it to the campaign."

Calabretta could not be reached for comment.