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Being Assembly speaker pays off for Heastie

ALBANY – How good is it to become a New York state legislative leader?

If you mean for raising money for a campaign account, it’s real, real good.

On Friday, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, reported he has raised $298,000 for his personal campaign fund during the past six months.

In the six-month period ending in January 2015, before he became Speaker of the Assembly following the arrest last year of then-Speaker Sheldon Silver, Heastie brought in just $48,000.

That means donations were up more than 500 percent in the recent period.

The amount raised by Heastie in the last six months was less than the $366,000 he brought in from January to July last year. He was elected speaker in early February last year.

As good as that is, it’s even better being governor, though, as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a serious fundraiser, proved once again. He raised $5 million during the past six months from a who’s who of business, labor, lobbying, legal and other interests that have various business dealings with the state government.

The campaign activities by the two Democrats were among the reports made public Friday evening by the state Board of Elections. A host of campaigns did not have their reports released yet on the board’s website, including Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Suffolk County Republican who, like Heastie, rode to power last year following a scandal involving a former legislative leader.

The governor’s donations included nearly $900,000 from limited liability corporations tied to real estate, lobbying, gambling, finance industry and other interests. Those are the donations Cuomo now says must be curbed as one idea to help restore the public’s trust in Albany after a decade of non-stop corruption scandals; his new budget calls for closing a loophole in the law that allows limited liability corporations to get around far lower contribution limits for corporations.

Cuomo reported $16 million on hand in his campaign account, though he has not said if he will run for re-election in 2018. His expenses included $8,000 to a Long Island air charter service for a flight he took last year on a private jet to Kansas City to watch the New York Mets play the Kansas City Royals in the World Series, and he got a $6,000 in-kind donation for travel with a New Jersey-based private helicopter service. His campaign earned $31,000 just in the period.

Cuomo’s campaign spent, in total, $1.6 million in the past six months. Besides the usual money going to political consultants and campaign literature and polling, the expenses included funds for polo shirts, pins, wine for events he held at the government-owned governor’s mansion in Albany and photography. The governor also spent $300,000 on a private law firm representing his administration’s interests in a probe by federal prosecutors about the operation and 2014 shutdown of a state anti-corruption panel; U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said this week he found no criminal wrongdoing in that case.

The administration issued a statement saying: “These payments were for fees and expenses concerning the firm’s original engagement, as well as document production and assistance related to recent trials.”

Legal fees also flowed heavily from the campaign account of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who was convicted last month on federal corruption charges. In the past six months, Skelos’ campaign spent nearly $800,000 on lawyers to represent him in the matter.

That did not come close to what Silver spent. His campaign spent $1.4 million in just the past six months on two Manhattan law firms to represent him in his criminal case.

The money Heastie raised for his private campaign account does not include the $590,000 that came in over the last six months to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee, the umbrella fund-raising group for Assembly Democrats that Heastie controls.

The Senate Republican campaign committee, the main vehicle by which the GOP hopes to fund its re-election efforts this fall in a bid to retain control of the chamber, reported raising $482,000 since July, with $2.8 million on hand. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, said they raised $201,000 and have $1 million in the bank.

email: tprecious@buffnews.com