Why are Kiryas Joel Building and Real Estate Concerns Funding St. Lawrence’s Campaign?
October 26, 2015 Politicians fund their election campaigns by soliciting donations from supporters and other partners. The money is collected by PACs (Political Action Committees) and New York State requires that these PACs submit regular financial reports that appear on the New York State Board of Elections website (http://www.elections.ny.gov/CFViewReports.html). Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence has two such PACs, one that the general public can easily find on the state site—it’s called Friends of Christopher P. St. Lawrence—and another that doesn’t have his name and won’t show up in searches for his name as owner or recipient of those funds. Both PACs are managed by Nathan Oberman, Ramapo’s Deputy Director of Finance and Receiver of Taxes. So why does St. Lawrence have this second secretive bankroll where donors can direct money almost anonymously? The answer lies in who is writing those checks in the dark.
Two Cash Boxes
The PAC that town workers, favored vendors, and political cronies usually donate to is the one called “Friends of Christopher P. St. Lawrence.” The state calls it Filer C22727, and in the most recent filing (the 32 Day Pre Primary Report) the Friends had a closing balance of $64,369.12. A lot of people who have their paychecks signed by St. Lawrence donated from $100 to $500 to this PAC, which they likely perceive as longevity insurance.
Not surprising though, the report shows that the biggest donations in this fund come from developers and those with apparent ties to Monsey and Spring Valley developers. There’s one check, however, that jumps out at you because it’s the largest check on all five pages of the report. Check number 3113 written by Ruzhin Corp. is for $5,000, making it the number one donor of this current election campaign for St. Lawrence’s Friends PAC, and it makes donors like Michael Klein head of the legal dept. ($350) and Police Chief Peter Brower ($492) look like pikers. The company has its headquarters at 6 Ruzhin Road, just off Tzfas Road, in the Village of Kiryas Joel. If that were not interesting enough, this same company, when it was writing its first corporate checks wrote another check (#0003 on September 29, 2014) for another $5,000 also made out to Christopher St. Lawrence. That one, however was not written to the Friends of CSL PAC, it was made out to the other, dark PAC. So that’s $10,000 donated to St. Lawrence’s campaign, both written within months of each other, and both from a Kiryas Joel company.
There is also another sizeable donation itemized in the 32-day PrePrimary report for the Friends of CSL. That came from another upstate company called Allstate Developers. It’s for $2,000, and the builder lists its office at 13 Hayes Court, just off Satmar Drive, like Ruhzin, also in Kiryas Joel.
When you look over the summary page of the 32-day report (filed on July,30 this year) you’ll see that the total contributions to the Friends of Christopher P. St. Lawrence PAC for this election year adds up to $27,139 with more than 25% of the entire sum from two Kiryas Joel businesses. And one of them made the largest single donation to the Friends PAC. Kind of begs the question, “What are these two companies getting for their money?”
The Shadow PAC
Usually, when you try to look up a politician on the Board of Elections campaign finance website you can search the database for the candidate’s name, or the candidate’s political committee name, or, if you know it, you can search for the filer ID number for the PAC.
Christopher St. Lawrence has a second PAC for his donors that doesn’t show up when you search any or all parts of his name. It’s called “Leadership That’s Working—2003,” no mention of Ramapo nor of St. Lawrence. To get to it, you have to know to type that generic name or know the filer ID #C22260. Between the two CSL PACs, this one is the workhorse, pulling in 45% more cash than the Friends PAC. It collected a reported $39,266 in donations according to the January 2015 Periodic Report. Whether there were more donations during the year, we don’t know because the 32-Day Pre Primary Report wasn’t filed for Leadership That’s Working—2003.
You can discover who collected the money through the name box for the account. It reads:
The address for this PAC, then, is same as the address for the Friends of Christopher P. St. Lawrence PAC. And 10 Bannock Court is the home address of Nathan Oberman who is apparently handling all the cash, bookkeeping, and reports for both PACs. For those who wouldn’t recognize the address, Nate was considerate enough to list himself by name on the expenditures page in the Leadership January report. He put in a request for $117.63 for “Office”. In the expense line he includes his name and the 10 Bannock Court address.
In the January report for the big donors Leadership PAC there are only 11 donors named—7 corporate donors and 4 others listed as other monetary. Here’s how they break down:
$2,500 BE & YO Realty Inc. PO Box 2384, Monroe (The location of BE & YO is 269 Mountain View Drive in Kiryas Joel. The company’s business listing claims “[It’s] a developing and construction company. . .they have developed multiple houses in Kiryas Joel.”
The next 5 are Monsey and Spring Valley concerns:
$10,000 Trodale Developers Inc., 23 Ellish Parkway, Spring Valley. Local developer headed by Berel Karniol.
$1,000 Madira Framing Corp., 305 Executive Park, Nanuet. Company that did framing for the Elm Street Housing Project headed by St. Lawrence’s Ramapo Local Development Corp, currently under investigation by the FBI and the SEC.
$1,000 Monsey Affordable Homes Also listed at 305 Executive Park, Nanuet.
$1,000 OTAP Oxford Holding Corp., 300 Executive Park, Nanuet.
$1,000 Mosdos Sanz Kausenburg, 45 Route 45, Spring Valley. This
donation is odd for a number of reasons. It’s substantial, and it’s
from a religious private school made to a politician.
$21,500.00 Corporate Total
$10,000 Shimmy’s Enterprise LLC II, PO Box 172, Tallman. The total $10,000 was written out as two checks each for $5,000, one dated 9/29/2015 and the other 9/30/2015. Company CEO is Shimon Galandauer, 16 Crestview Terrace, Monsey. The company was founded in 2010 and does construction with special trade contractors.
$4,000 Elm Street Condos LLC, 4 Gel Court, Monsey.
$1,000 Simcha 10 LLC, 14 Tokay Lane, Monsey.
$1,000 Kunstlinger Law Firm LLC, Spring Valley.
$16,000 Other Monetary Total
So, on the much more accessible Friends of Christopher P. St. Lawrence there were a total 43 named donors who contributed $27,139, or an average of $631 each.
In the shadow Leadership That’s Working—2003 PAC there were only 11 named donors who contributed $37,500, or an average of $3,409 each. The PAC also took in $1,766 in a category named “Unitemized”—unnamed donors.
Here’s a rhetorical quiz for our readers:
1. Why are the big money checks going to the PAC that doesn’t have St. Lawrence’s name or the Town of Ramapo on it?
2. What do most of these donors seem to have in common?
3. Why are those big checks from Kiryas Joel flowing down to the Supervisor at Ramapo Town Hall?
An Answer Key
It’s not difficult to make the connection between the influx of serious money from local developers and vendors who benefit from St. Lawrence’s hands off policies and Planning and Zoning Boards stacked with Monsey and Spring Valley facilitators. If you’re wondering whether New York State has laws that actively try to suppress pay-to-play relationships between politicians and vendors, the short answer is, not really. What passes for legislation against this species of bribery lacks any real enforcement in New York. That’s probably one of the reasons why, in recent years, the state has qualified to be listed among the most corrupt in the nation, and why the cynical who cover state politics sometimes describe actions of the current governor as evidence of our “Quid Pro Cuomo,” and why the other two “three men in a room” who ruled Albany are now spending so much time of late with their defense attorneys.
We know what the local developers are buying when they shovel their cash into St. Lawrence’s two PACs. Very generous donors like developer Michael Tauber reach up to the top of the list and later get named as builder for a Local Development Corp project like the Elm Street Condos, and no one’s surprised. But Kiryas Joel builders and businesses? The recent donations listed for the two PACs are significant. The KJ companies are not making one or two-hundred-dollar donations—they’ve kicked in $2,000, $2,500, $5,000 and $5,000.
Are they benefitting directly, or have they been instructed to make these donations as part of a larger political initiative. Or was it their own idea to make St. Lawrence Kiryas Joel’s candidate in this year’s election?