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Cuomo sees campaign contributions drop this year

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, with his poll numbers continuing to drag and federal prosecutors looking at his signature economic development programs, raised $4 million for his next campaign the past six months, a drop from comparable periods in other years.

The $4 million raised from mid-January through mid-July is less than the $5 million he brought in during the first half of last year. And the money raised by Cuomo in the second year of his second term is down nearly $2 million from the same period in 2012 when he was in the second year of his first term.

A Democratic source said Cuomo’s donation-raising efforts don’t include $778,000 in receipts reported by a state Democratic Party’s housekeeping account that Cuomo controls and that is intended to help fund New York delegation expenses at the upcoming national party convention in Philadelphia. But that same political party account last year reported housekeeping receipts of $2.4 million.

Also, more than $416,000 in Cuomo donations made public Friday were noted as being received after July 11, the cutoff date for reporting as set by the state Board of Elections; a campaign spokesman said the checks were actually dated on July 11, so they could be counted in the newest report.

Despite the slip in the pace of his fundraising, Cuomo does have something going for him: a lot of money in the bank. In all, Cuomo reported a campaign bank account balance of $19.1 million, up sharply from a year ago when, coming off the 2014 campaign, he reported $12.7 million on hand. The current balance is comparable to the $19.3 million he had on hand in July 2012.

Meanwhile, Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who lost to Cuomo in 2014 and is eyeing another potential run in 2018, raised $953,000 during the past six months. He reported having nearly $1.7 million in the bank.

Cuomo’s largest donor so far in 2016 is Dr. Richard Merkin, a Southern California resident. Merkin is head of the Heritage Provider Network, a physician-led managed care organization whose business includes more than 70,000 patients in New York.

Other statewide candidate filings include Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who has $180,000 on hand, and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, with $1.1 million in the bank. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s report was not made public as of Friday evening.

As has become routine the past decade, campaign finance filing deadline day is also a time for reporters to hunt through records to see which politician facing legal troubles used their campaign accounts to pay for criminal defense lawyers. Friday did not disappoint.

Former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos spent $615,000 from his now-dormant campaign to pay the legal tab to two law firms from January through March, his new filing on Friday showed. Skelos was a prolific fundraiser during his time in office, illustrated by how much he still has left in his campaign bank account – $925,000 – to now fund the legal costs of his appeal on his conviction on federal corruption charges. Skelos was sentenced in May to five years in prison.

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver already had ripped through a large portion of the money he had left in his campaign account, so he had less to spend. Silver also was convicted on corruption charges and sentenced in May to 12 years in prison and more than $6 million in fines and forfeiture. Silver’s report was not filed as of Friday evening.

Outgoing Sen. Marc Panepinto, a Buffalo Democrat, paid $25,000 to two law firms following revelations in March about possible sexual harassment allegations within his Senate office. The state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics this spring launched an initial inquiry into undisclosed complaints about Panepinto’s office. Panepinto surprised Buffalo political insiders when he announced in March that he would not seek a second term in this fall’s elections.

Since then, Panepinto’s campaign account has paid $15,000 to Greenberg Traurig, an Albany law firm, and in April it spent $10,000 with Manhattan law firm Harris, St. Laurent & Chaudhry.

The campaign account of the late Sen. Thomas Libous, a Binghamton Republican who died of cancer in May, also spent nearly $90,000 with an Albany law firm. Libous, then the second highest ranking Senate Republican, was convicted last July of lying to FBI investigators looking into what role he played in getting his son a job with a politically wired law firm.

Early fundraising activities for the Senate 60th District race, which will be a serious contest between Republicans and Democrats in the November race to determine control of the State Senate, began trickling in Friday.

On the Republican side, Erie County Clerk Christopher Jacobs reported $495,000 in receipts between January and mid-July for his bid for the seat now held by Panepinto. Of that amount, $200,000 came from a personal loan Jacobs made to his Senate run, along with a $100,000 transfer from his existing county clerk campaign account. He reported $463,000 in the bank. Kenmore attorney Kevin Stocker, who is challenging Jacobs in a GOP primary, raised $1,615, giving him $7,850 in the bank. But he also listed $345,000 in liabilities and outstanding loans from previous political campaigns he’s run. Stocker only announced his Senate race against Jacobs in the past week.

Campaign finance information for two Democrats running for the 60th, Amber Small and Al Coppola, were not available Friday evening.

email: tprecious@buffnews.com

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