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Report Looks at Rapfogel Fundraising, Ties to Silver

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There was new reporting over the weekend regarding the investigation of William Rapfogel, the Lower East Side power broker and former head of the Met Council.

William Rapfogel. Photo: Northeast Queens Jewish Community Council.
William Rapfogel. Photo: Northeast Queens Jewish Community Council.

Rapfogel was fired earlier this month as the Attorney General launched an investigation into whether he overpaid the Met Council’s insurance provider and then orchestrated financial donations to favored political candidates.  The story has shaken the Jewish community on Grand Street and led to a blizzard of statewide media coverage due to Rapfogel’s very close relationship with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. The Daily News published a story yesterday offering additional details about the inquiry:

An investigation by the Daily News has uncovered new evidence of Rapfogel helping politicians, apparently skirting a law that bars charities from getting involved in politics.  Rapfogel, 58, acted as an “intermediary” who collected nearly $20,000 in political contributions on behalf of candidates from 1994 to 2007, records show… Since 2003, city and state politicians have steered $5 million to the Met Council in discretionary funds known as “member items.”  By law, charities like the Met Council cannot return the favor by assisting candidates directly or indirectly. But Rapfogel appears to have pushed the interpretation of that law, and at times, Rapfogel’s role as a fund-raiser has been quite direct.  He is listed in campaign finance records as collecting $18,250 for assorted candidates from 1994 to 2007. Nearly half of that money — $8,500 — came from people tied to Century Coverage (the Met Council’s insurance carrier).  Century executives and their relatives have also donated or raised $130,000 for politicians who have funded the Met Council, records show.  One such politician is Silver, who has appropriated $868,000 in discretionary funds to the Met Council since 2006, and received $8,500 for his political committees from Century employees, records show.  A source close to Rapfogel said Rapfogel would let candidates receiving donations tied to the insurance company know that he was responsible for raising it.  “Otherwise, why go through the trouble?” the source said.  The source said that from Rapfogel’s perspective, using the insurance company to spread campaign donations “became an indirect way to do what he couldn’t do directly — make political contributions.”… Rapfogel’s attorney Paul Shechtman has denied that Silver or Judy Rapfogel (William’s wife and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s chief of staff) knew about the scheme. Indeed, Judy Rapfogel is said to be “devastated.”… “She has always had a good reputation,” one Albany source said. “She is seen as very scrupulous and not screwing around with stuff.”

In a separate story this morning, the News reported:

A co-chairwoman of Gov. Cuomo’s commission probing state government corruption received nearly $300,000 in campaign donations from the law firm that employs Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.  Some critics question how aggressive the panel would be if asked to probe Silver — given the contributions to the co-chair, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, from Weitz & Luxenberg, its partners and their spouses.“ Given these hefty contributions, it’s fair to ask if Kathleen will look the other way or will she really hold Shelly’s feet to the fire,” said a senior state government official. “Time will tell.”

One other note regarding Speaker Silver.  State Sen. Daniel Squadron, Silver’s counterpart in Albany and a candidate for public advocate, was asked about the Speaker during a televised debate yesterday.   The Times made note of it in its debate wrap-up:

(Squadron) faced an awkward moment when a moderator asked why he had not called for the resignation of Sheldon Silver, the embattled Assembly speaker and one of Mr. Squadron’s political allies. Mr. Squadron said he deferred to members of the State Assembly on the issue.

As did NY1:

State Senator Daniel Squadron received the coveted endorsement of the New York Times this weekend, but as the only Albany-based politician, he refused to call for embattled Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s resignation.  “Look, at the end of the day, the Democratic members of the State Assembly are the ones who choose the Speaker, and I have left it to them,” Squadron said.

as the only Albany-based politician, he refused to call for embattled Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s resignation.”Look, at the end of the day, the Democratic members of the State Assembly are the ones who choose the Speaker, and I have left it to them,” Squadron said. – See more at: http://manhattan.ny1.com/content/politics/political_news/187714/public-advocate-candidates-draw-sharp-distinctions-in-second-live-debate#sthash.PYSOE5wz.dpuf

as the only Albany-based politician, he refused to call for embattled Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s resignation.”Look, at the end of the day, the Democratic members of the State Assembly are the ones who choose the Speaker, and I have left it to them,” Squadron said. – See more at: http://manhattan.ny1.com/content/politics/political_news/187714/public-advocate-candidates-draw-sharp-distinctions-in-second-live-debate#sthash.PYSOE5wz.dpuf
as the only Albany-based politician, he refused to call for embattled Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s resignation.”Look, at the end of the day, the Democratic members of the State Assembly are the ones who choose the Speaker, and I have left it to them,” Squadron said. – See more at: http://manhattan.ny1.com/content/politics/political_news/187714/public-advocate-candidates-draw-sharp-distinctions-in-second-live-debate#sthash.PYSOE5wz.dpuf
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