A member of the Assembly’s Labor Committee sent out campaign mailers that may falsely imply he used unionized printing, and now labor groups are investigating.
Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D–Bensonhurst) mailed Christmas cards last week bearing a so-called “union bug” — a label indicating they were produced by a union shop — in a bid to court voters in the Bay Ridge city Council district where he’s mulling a run, according to an Observer report. But the label is too smudged to clearly indicate what shop made the mailers, and Abbate himself doesn’t know who produced them, raising questions whether the longtime state pol is fudging the facts, critics say.
“My eyes immediately went to the union bug, and that was a concern. It’s not a real union bug, it’s just a smudge. It looks like it’s smudged so you can’t trace it,” said a Democratic source aligned with another candidate for the seat.
Only one union produces such a label — the Allied Printing Trades Council. But the group’s local chapter says that the bug doesn’t look legit, and so it is putting Abbate’s fliers under the microscope, hoping to find the printer used the label — apparently to misrepresent itself as a union shop, according to a labor honcho.
“We are doing our own independent investigation,” said John Heffernan, president of the print union’s New York City chapter. “We’re looking at the shop, the origin of this literature, and also want to look back at previous years.”
Abbate doesn’t know who printed the cards — or where — but he insists they are union-made. He sent the order to a broker in North Carolina, but he will not know where the printing was done until he gets an invoice after Christmas, he said.
“I don’t know where they were printed. I didn’t get a bill,” he said. “I sent it out to a company. I gave it to a broker. There’s nothing wrong with the card, to my knowledge it’s union-printed. I don’t know who did the printing, because I didn’t get the bill. Give me a call on the 27th, and I will have the information for you.”
This isn’t the first time the state legislator has stamped the suspicious bug on his mailers — fliers from 2010 and 2014 show a similar, illegible label on the bottom-right corner.
Abbate is rumored to be eyeing term-limited Councilman Vincent Gentile’s Bay Ridge seat. The mailers were specifically sent to people living in that Council district, the Observer reported.
Some say the 68-year-old legislator (first elected to his state seat in 1986) is hungry for a juicy municipal paycheck — local legislators make $148,500 while Abbate and his colleagues in Albany haul in $79,500 annually — or a municipal pension, but he’s previously denied he’s in it for the money.
Abbate does not have to step down from the Assembly before running for Council.
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A campaign finance law passed last week is raising eyebrows because it may lead to fraud in the city’s matching-funds program.
The program matches 6-to-1 individuals’ donations up to $2,750, meaning a participating pol who gets $2,750 from one private citizen gets another $16,500 from the city.
Previously, donors had to fill out and sign a card proving they were real people who actually made the donation, and campaigns could not alter it in anyway — a way of preventing fraud and abuse.
But a new law introduced by Councilman David Greenfield (D–Midwood) and signed by Mayor DeBlasio on Dec. 22 allows campaigns to fill out the cards themselves.
An early version of the bill that let campaigns fill out everything but the donors’ name was so contentious that Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Red Hook) — a co-sponsor — removed his name from the measure.
But Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office cleaned up the proposal so campaigns can fill out the forms but donors must review them after they are completed and verify their authenticity with a signature.
The amended bill passed Council unanimously, but giving campaigns more leeway when filling out financial disclosures is a step backwards, according to a good-government group.
“It does lessen the chance of fraud by no longer allowing for the contribution cards to be filled out after the contribution has been filled out, however it still removes the donor from taking full responsibility for filling out the card,” said Dick Dadey, who heads Citizens Union.
©2016 Community News Group
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