By Howard Koplowitz
State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) led the state Legislature last year with $5.7 million in earmarks given to nonprofits ï»¿— more than $4.4 million higher than the average allotment for senators, according to a report released Monday by five good government groups.
Smith, who entered the Senate in 2000, rose to minority leader of the body in 2007 and was elevated to majority leader a year later after Democrats took control of the chamber.
Federal prosecutors reportedly subpoenaed 10 years’ worth of Smith’s member items in its investigation of a nonprofit he helped found along with U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) — New Direction Local Development Corp.
Two other Queens senators were in the top 20 out of 62 senators in the amount of member items given to them.
Member items help fund nonprofit organizations in the legislators’ districts.ï»¿
Sen. George Onorato (D-Astoria) was 13th with more than $2.9 million in member items — $1.68 million more than the average.
Onorato, whose first year in the Senate was 1983 and who said he would not seek re-election this year, was second in terms of seniority out of the top 20.
Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) was 19th in member items with $2 million — more than $708,000 higher than the Senate average of roughly $1.3 million.
Member item distribution is determined by the majority party in the Senate and is largely based on seniority, leadership positions and the party in power — currently the Democrats.ï»¿
There is a large disparity, with the top 19 senators receiving 75 percent of the more than $80 million doled out in member item funding.
Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) led all Republican senators with $510,000 in member items, which was more than $781,000 below the Senate average.
Padavan, who was 32nd on the list, and one other Republican senator have both been in the Senate the longest — since 1972.
Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), who was a freshman senator in 2009, had the fewest amount in member item funding among Democrats with $510,000 — $10,000 fewer than Padavan and more than $791,000 below the Senate average.
Out of all the freshman Democrats in 2009, Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada (D-Bronx) — who along with then-Sen. Hiram Monserrate bolted from the Democratic caucus last year and returned, but not before Espada was given the title of majority leader — led the pack with $2.05 million in member items, or 14th out of the 62 senators.
Monserrate, who was expelled from the Senate after being convicted of misdemeanor assault on his girlfriend and then lost a special election for his old seat this month, did the second best out of the six freshman senators with $650,000, making him 29th on the list.
The report was released Monday by five good government groups: the New York Public Interest Research Group, the Brennan Center for Justice, Citizens Union, Common Cause/NY and the New York State League of Women Voters.
The groups recommended that legislators receive equal amounts of member item funding.
State Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood) received the fifth-highest amount of member items out of the 162 members of that chamber with $1.278 million, or more than $974,000 higher than the Assembly average.
Also in the top 10 was Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona), who received $825,270, or more than $521,000 higher than the Assembly average.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.