Democratic State Senate Candidate Zellnor Myrie today called out his opponent, State Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D-Central Brooklyn) for accepting money that the state’s top election enforcement determined needs to be refunded to contributors.
But a spokesperson for the account handling the money charged that the state’s top election enforcement officer, Risa Sugarman, is playing fast and loose with a State Supreme Court ruling on the campaign cash, and politicizing the issue in the heart of the primary season.
Hamilton received over $120,000 from an account that was associated with the Senate Independence Campaign Committee. A state supreme court ruled the SICC and a related housekeeping account was illegal because it was controlled by the now disbanded Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), which was not a political party.
“Jesse Hamilton’s choice to bankroll his campaign with IDC money from real estate developers, Republican lobbyists, and corporate special interests was always wrong – now, it’s crystal clear that it was also illegal,” Myrie said.
The accounts were formed in 2016 with the Independence Party. The accounts were able to accept large campaign donations and give them to IDC candidates. Now, the Division of Election Law Enforcement says the funds must be returned to the donors.
“The Board of Elections has exposed that the IDC’s campaign account was a slush fund used to violate contribution limits and obscure their fundraising activities. This year, Jesse Hamilton received $129,700 from this account. I join the Board of Elections in calling for him to refund his illegal contributions by August 9, 2018,” Myrie said.
But Barbara Brancaccio, a spokeswoman for the former IDC members said Sugarman misinterpreted the June court ruling.
“There is no basis in the judge’s decision for these funds to be returned and demands otherwise are just political grandstanding,” said Brancaccio.
Brancaccio also produced a letter from the group’s attorney, Lawrence Mandelker, to the state Board of Election Enforcement Division, saying that if they ask the court to enforce their decision, the SICC will ask the court to impost sanctions against the Enforcement Division for “ignoring the provisions of the judgement and proceeding in bad faith.”
The letter further states the ruling did not issue a judgement declaration to return any money, but did enter a judgement requiring, “that respondents must take whatever actions are necessary to comply with the election law,” in light of the court ruling.
But Myrie said that Hamilton accepting the funds is a betrayal to the residents of the district he is supposed to be representing. Now Myrie is calling for further action to be taken against Hamilton for other shady practices.
“Unfortunately for my fellow constituents of the 20th Senate District, this was no honest mistake. Jesse Hamilton has established a clear pattern of corruption, recently spurring the watchdog group Common Cause to urge the New York State Attorney General to investigate him for operating his campaign and a political ‘nonprofit’ out of an apartment unit designated for low-income tenants,” Myrie said, “Jesse Hamilton broke away from the Senate Democrats the day before his 2016 election, leaving voters with no choice. I’m proud to give Central Brooklyn a choice this September 13th.”
A Hamilton campaign spokesperson retorted that “Zellnor Myrie knows nothing about this community or the real issues working families have faced over the last 10 years.
“This is just one more empty talking point in Zellnor’s campaign of political pandering. What is clear is that Zellnor either hasn’t read, or can’t understand a legal opinion.”