Several borough lawmakers accept campaign funds from Glenwood

By Tom Momberg

The real estate developer at the focal point of the corruption trials of fallen Albany power brokers Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos gave over $65,000 in campaign contributions to two state Senate Ethics Committee members from Queens since 2012, according to state records.

Silver, the former Democratic Assembly speaker, and Skelos, the former Republican majority leader of the Senate, were both convicted of trading legislative favors for profit and personal gain.

The recent findings for the two Queens senators are but a small picture of hundreds of contributions made by Glenwood Management owner Leonard Litvin via a loophole in the state elections rules that allows limited-liability corporations registered with a single entity to be treated as individual companies.

Queens state Sens. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) were on the Ethics Committee.

Four different $10,000 contributions from four LLCs linked to Glenwood Management were reported in Avella’s campaign finance disclosures filed with the state Board of Elections during his 2014 campaign for office.

The contributors listed on that report—Arwin 88th Street LLC, Briar Hill Realty LLC, Columbus 60th Realty LLC and East 46th Realty LLC—are each associated with different real estate developments registered with Glenwood’s New Hyde Park office at 12-00 Union Turnpike.

Other Glenwood-linked corporations gave Gianaris at least $27,500, according to disclosure reports.

Columbus 60th Realty LLC contributed $10,000 to Gianaris’ 2012 campaign. Tribeca North End LLC contributed $2,500 in 2012 and $5,000 in 2013. And River York Barclay LLC gave Gianaris another $10,000 in 2014. Each of those corporations is also linked to Glenwood’s New Hyde Park office.

Avella’s and Gianaris’ offices said they would respond to questions about the financial contributions from Glenwood, but the TimesLedger did not receive comments before the deadline despite repeated requests.

Avella was abruptly removed as chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee in May and reassigned to be the chairman of the Senate’s Children and Families Committee.

The Senate Ethics Committee has not formally convened in at least six years. The New York Post reported Avella lost the chairmanship of the Ethics Committee when he tried to convene a pubic meeting.

Avella told the TimesLedger he would propose a series of ethics reforms in the Senate in January, although he is no longer on the committee.

State Sen. Phil Boyle (R-L.I.), who is also on the Ethics Committee, received about $105,000 in campaign contributions from Glenwood LLCs in the past three years, according to state records.

The three senators join Mayor Bill de Blasio among the elected officials who have obtained contributions from Glenwood, which came to light during the corruption trials of Silver and Skelos.

The mayor has vowed to give the roughly $20,000 he received back to Glenwood and the city Campaign Finance Board.

The amount each of those politicians received pales in comparison to the $1.2 million in campaign contributions Gov. Andrew Cuomo got from the Glenwood companies in the last three years, according to disclosure filings.

The criminal complaint filed against Silver accused him of using his position and political clout to steer developers, including Glenwood, to a law firm in exchange for commissions. Criminal charges were brought against Skelos earlier this year for accepting contributions from Glenwood in exchange for tax breaks and perks for his son.

The contributions to Avella’s and Gianaris’ campaigns were made before Glenwood became embroiled in corruption charges with Skelos and Silver.

Glenwood’s contributions did not follow any particular pattern with political party affiliation.

Since 2001, Glenwood has made millions of dollars in contributions via the LLC loophole to other Queens legislators such as state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), former state Sen. Malcolm Smith — a Democrat in south Queens who was convicted of corruption charges involving bribery — state Assemblymen Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights), Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) and David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows), state Assemblywoman Michele Titus (D-Far Rockaway), Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and several more.

The contributions made by Glenwood-linked LLCs have been steadily increasing over the past three years, according to the watchdog group Common Cause.

Common Cause said the rise in Glenwood contributions from $1.1 million in contributions in 2008 to over $2.5 million in 2014 is unusual, but should not implicate the elected officials who accepted the campaign funds of wrongdoing.

Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomberg@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.