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

Who should know the law better? --Queens campaign contributions

Village Voice, 1972

The state's 1973 Election Law is apparently not on the "must" reading list of some of Queens' most prominent elected officials. A routine check of the campaign records of Queens' top political leader, Councilman Matthew Troy, and its top law enforcement official, District Attorney Nicholas Ferraro, turned up several apparent breaches of the election law.

According to the campaign records filed by the two officials' campaign committees with the Board of Elections during 1973, misdemeanor violations of the state's 1973 election law were apparently committed on behalf of both. The records also revealed apparent misdemeanor violations by three Queens Civil Court judges.

Section 460 of the law clearly states: "No corporation or joint-stock association doing business in this state, except a corporation or association organized or maintained for political purposes only, shall 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 such office, or for any political purposes whatever..."

It further states: "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 violations of this section, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor."

Those found guilty of a first offense misdemeanor violation are liable to up to a year in prison and/or a fine of between $100 and $500.

According to documents filed by the Committee to Re-elect Troy, 18 firms identified as corporations by a spokesman for the Department of State contributed a total of $2750 to Troy's campaign (see accompanying box). In addition, two banks contributed $150. In total, Troy's committee reported a total of $47,360 in receipts. Repeated efforts to contact the Councilman were unsuccessful.

According to documents filed by Friends of Senator Nicholas Ferraro, four firms identified as corporations by the spokesman contributed a total of $700 to the former State Senator's campaign. The committee reported a total of $57,660 in receipts.

When contacted, Ferraro insisted: "There were never any corporate checks. My committee was very, very careful about that." He added that while he had no personal contact with the contributions or the campaign documents, "three or four" people on his campaign staff scrutinized them.

Ferraro asked for and was told the names of the films: Colony Gardens, 175 Fulton Avenue, Hempstead, $200 on October 15, 1973; Moncarol Construction Company, 245-20 Grand Central Parkway, Bellerose, $100 on October 15, 1973, and $200 on October 18, 1973; Rome restaurant, 46-11 Broadway, Long Island City, $100 on September 26, 1973; and General Fire Proof, 900 Whittier Street, Bronx, $100 on September 14, 1973. He maintained that none of the above firms were corporations, and that the money was proceeds from a dinner on his behalf.

When told a spokesman for the Department of State identified them as corporations, he said: "I don't know how that could happen. My people were to go through them. I don't have any knowledge of this."

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

Section 454 of the law states: "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 for him."

The candidates, who were nominated in July and elected in November to the 10-year, $36,451 judicial seats, are: Joseph S. Calabretta, Eugen S. McQuade, and Fred T. Santucci. According to Ferraro's records, Calabretta contributed $100 on October 15, 1973; McQuade contributed $100 "by check of Ethel and Walter Laske" on September 26, 1973; and Santucci contributed $50 on October 4, 1973.

Efforts to reach Calabretta were unsuccessful.

McQuade claimed he never gave a contribution and didn't recall going to any dinner. He said it was a contribution by Laske which "I may have mailed in…At that time I was the Democratic leader of the 23rd A.D. He (Laske) gave me a check for the dinner and I forwarded it to the campaign."

"I don't recall making a contribution," said Santucci. "It may have been made prior to my becoming a candidate."

These admittedly minor violations of the law imply ignorance rather than a deliberate attempt to violate the law. Yet that does not mean they are insignificant. After all, who should know the law better than the person who picks the judges (Troy), the person entrusted with enforcing the law (Ferraro), and the persons who interpret the law (the judges)?

The following is a list of the corporations which contributed to Troy's campaign: Maspeth Federal Savings and Loan Association, Queens $100; Varsity Transit, Inc., Queens, $500; Edenwald Contracting Company Inc., Queens, $100; Neo-Ray Lighting Systems, Inc., Brooklyn, $200; Western Union Telegraph Company, Inc., Manhattan, $100; YMF Holding Corporation, Garden City, $100; Tern Construction Corporation Brooklyn, $200; Kirsch Beverages, Inc., Queens, $100; Anthony Grace and Sons, Inc., Queens, $100; BMW Copying Products, Queens $100; International Motor Inn, Inc., Queens, $500; Or-di Construction Corporation, Mt. Vernon, $50; National Bank of North America, Wantaugh, $50; Kneers Catering Company, Inc., Queens, $100; Slattery Associates, Inc., Queens, $100; Ariola Contracting Corporation, Queens, $50; Clermont Liquors, Inc., Manhattan, $100; Village Mall Town Houses, Inc., Queens, $200; Forest Hills Continental Corporation, Queens, $50.