Finance board fines Friedrich $400 for contribution at ‘09 event

Finance board fines Friedrich $400 for contribution at ‘09 event
Failed City Council candidate Bob Friedrich (l.) was assessed $433 in penalties from the city Campaign Finance Board stemming from his campaign against then-Assemblyman Mark Weprin (r.). Weprin returned more than $16,000 in public money from the race.
By Howard Koplowitz

Failed City Council candidate Bob Friedrich was slapped with more than $400 in fines last Thursday from the city Campaign Finance Board, including more than $350 for what the board said amounted to an illegal corporate contribution.

Friedrich’s 2009 Council campaign racked up a $383 violation for holding a “Bagels with Bob” event at Glen Oaks Village, where he is board president.

Friedrich sent out a Sept. 22, 2009, letter on Glen Oaks Village letterhead that described the upcoming Oct. 24, 2009, event as “an opportunity for us to sit and talk about community concerns and issues face to face.”

But Friedrich violated campaign finance rules after the CFB determined use of community space for the event amounted to an in-kind contribution.

CFB spokesman Eric Friedman said the fine stemmed from a complaint filed by Jack Friedman, a Democratic state committeeman and former chief of staff to Weprin’s brother, David Weprin, alleging Friedrich’s event should be constituted as in-kind corporate contribution.

Friedman said the CFB penalty starts with a baseline amount of $250, with the board assessing that the community space for the Bagels with Bob event was worth another $133 in penalties.

Friedrich said no campaign-related discussions were held during the event and said he would have fought the violation but did not have the funds to hire an attorney.

He also criticized Jack Friedman for lodging the complaints because he is executive vice president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

But Friedman said the complaints were filed as a private citizen and had nothing to do with his affiliation with the chamber.

“I filed a complaint against [Friedrich] because he broke the law,” he said. “The chamber doesn’t endorse political candidates. We have as much of a relationship with [Republican lawmakers] Eric Ulrich and Dan Halloran as we do with Mark Weprin and [Democrat] Julissa Ferreras.”

Eric Friedman said the CFB also fined Friedrich $50 for accepting a corporate contribution from the Royal Ranch Association, a local civic organization that is incorporated.

The CFB also approved a $4,615 post-election payment to Friedrich’s account due to matching funds.

Friedman said Friedrich can only use those funds to pay down debt, but the monies cannot be used to fund another campaign.

Meanwhile, City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) has returned more than $16,000 in public funds to the city Campaign Finance Board from his 2009 campaign.

The $16,346 that Weprin returned was public funding that he did not use during the campaign, a CFB spokeswoman said Monday.

That amount was about 9 percent of the $177,100 Weprin received through the CFB’s matching funds program.

“Public financing has been a boon to participatory democracy in New York City,” Weprin said in a statement. “At the same time, I believe in being frugal with taxpayer dollars.”

“Under New York City’s public matching funds system, there is a mix of private and public funds in every campaign. The requirement to return unused funds to the taxpayers after the election helps ensure that taxpayers get the best value from the program,” Friedman said. “Mark Weprin fulfilled his obligation to the public completely and promptly.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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