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PBA Super PAC Tries to Swing Staten Island and Queens Council Races for Police Allies

Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch endorses Staten Island City Council candidate Sal Albanese, April 20, 2021.
Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch endorses Staten Island City Council candidate Sal Albanese, April 20, 2021.
Screengrab/NYC PBA/YouTube

In 2019, Sal Albanese, a former City Council member serving on the Charter Revision Commission, twice voted against a proposal to make it possible for a civilian oversight board to fire lying cops.

The Democrat said the de Blasio administration — which Albanese has spent the past nearly eight years criticizing at every turn — “made a compelling case” that the issue was already being properly handled by the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau.

Nonetheless, the proposal passed by a razor thin eight to six vote after mayoral appointee, Carl Weisbrod, changed his position during a second count.

In April, the Police Benevolent Association (PBA), and the NYPD’s three other main unions, aside from the Captains Endowment Association, endorsed Albanese’s run for Republican Steven Matteo’s Staten Island City Council seat. Matteo, who took office in 2014, is term limited out.

The PBA has collected $376,597 to fund an independent expenditure to pay for pro-Albanese mailers and ads on radio, television and online, city Campaign Finance Board records show.

Independent expenditure groups — including one supported by the then-world’s richest woman — spent heavily, mostly without success, trying to influence the June citywide primary when most races were essentially decided in predominantly Democratic New York.

Independent expenditures by law can’t coordinate with campaigns and the candidates do not have any control of the spending. But records show some super PACs are attempting to exert influence in up-for-grabs contests in Tuesday’s general election.

‘He Has a Plan’

Albanese is not the only candidate to get a PBA boost: The union has also made $140,869 in independent expenditure contributions on behalf of Queens Republican party chair and Council hopeful Joann Ariola, filings show.

The PBA has also spent $77,460 to pay for a billboard and other material trashing Ariola’s opponent, Democrat Felicia Singh, who is seeking to flip the last GOP seat in Queens, currently held term-limited Councilmember Eric Ulrich.

Ariola and Albanese are each staunch supporters of the NYPD, and have spoken publicly about what they say is the need to boost the department’s budget.

Albanese, who has waged three unsuccessful bids for the Democratic mayoral nomination dating to 1997, said he was inspired to seek office again to support police.

“The main reason I’m running is I’m angry with the Defund the Police movement and the way police have been demonized,” he told The Chief-Leader.

“If I’m elected, I want to explain to people the dynamics of that job,” he added, arguing against the July 2020 law opening officers to criminal prosecution if they compressed the diaphragms of people who they are trying to arrest. The law was put on hold after a Manhattan Supreme Court ruling this summer.

Sal Albanese
Sal Albanese and family
Courtesy of Sal Albanese for City Council Member 2021

Protests erupted in New York City and throughout the country last year after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis who pressed his knee into the victim’s neck for nearly nine minutes. The CCRB has recommended discipline for 65 cops over misconduct during those protests.

As for the Albanese endorsement, PBA President Patrick Lynch cited the union’s long ties with the former city lawmaker.

“He has a plan,” Lynch said when he announced the union’s endorsement of Albanese in April. “He’s always had a plan. We worked closely with him when he was in the City Council.”

Who’s More Pro-Cop?

Albanese served in the City Council for 15 years representing Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge, before relocating to Staten Island.

In that role, he’d go on ride-alongs with police once a year and use those experiences to advocate for added resources for officers.

Albanese is up against Republican candidate David Carr, who served as Matteo’s chief of staff. George Wonica, a Realtor, is running on the Conservative Party line.

During a debate on NY1, Carr and Albanese bickered over which one of them is more pro-cop, a key issue in the city’s most conservative borough.

The police union support has helped, according to Albanese, who declined to comment Monday, citing his busy campaign schedule.

“We got our message out. Everywhere I go, people know me,” he told The Chief-Leader.

‘Common Sense’ Returns

The PBA isn’t the only group using independent expenditures to boost candidates favorable to their causes.

Common Sense NYC, a real-estate backed independent expenditure group, has spent a little over $300,000 on digital ads and mailers to support three Council candidates and run negative material against two other Council hopefuls. The group is backing both Democratic and Republican centrists.

“Common Sense NYC is proud to continue our work supporting conscientious, pragmatic, experienced candidates who have real ideas and practical solutions for improving the safety, quality of life and future of New York City,” said Jeff Leb, the group’s treasurer and political strategist.

The organization has gotten $1 million from Stephen Ross, the CEO of the real estate firm Related Companies, which developed Hudson Yards. Ross previously seeded a Super PAC focused on voter outreach.

Ronald Lauder — an Estée Lauder makeup company heir, billionaire investor and president of the World Jewish Congress who ran for the Republican nomination for mayor in 1989 — gave Common Sense $500,000.

Common Sense spent more than $1 million during the Democratic primary against seven progressives the group deemed “dangerous” — and to support pro-business candidates, THE CITY reported.

Brooklyn District 48 Council candidates Steven Saperstein and Inna Vernikov.
Brooklyn Council candidates Steven Saperstein and Inna Vernikov.
Saperstein and Vernikov Campaigns

In the current election cycle, Common Sense NYC spent close to $90,000 to support Brooklyn Democratic City Council candidate Steve Saperstein with everything from online ads to robo calls and texts to potential voters, according to Leb.

Saperstein is in a tight race against pro-Trump Republican candidate Inna Vernikov.

“The race is going to be very close, even though the Democrats in the area outnumber the Republicans,” predicted Eli Rubinstein, a Sheepshead Bay resident who is active in the community.

Negative Campaign Material Funded

Common Sense NYC also gave $54,000 for a mass mailing and online ads in support of Democrat Staten Island Council candidate Kamillah Hanks.

Hanks, who created Staten Island’s YouthBuild program, is running against Republican Patricia Rondinelli, who worked at the Manhattan Institute. The women are trying to replace three-term Councilwoman Debi Rose, who was term-limited out.

Kamillah Hanks ran a hard-charging campaign in 2017 that featured frequent attacks on incumbent Councilmember Debi Rose.
Staten Island Council candidate Kamillah Hanks
Courtesy of Kamillah Hanks Campaign

Queens Democratic candidate Lynn Schulman has also notched support from the group to the tune of $30,500, records show. She’s up against Republican Michael Conigliaro. They are each vying to succeed Karen Koslowitz, who is term-limited.

Common Sense has spent $75,000 on negative campaign material against Singh in Queens and $70,000 against Brian Fox, who is challenging Councilmember Justin Brannan (D-Brooklyn).

Fox is a pro-Trump candidate who has posted conspiracy theories online and is against the de Blasio administration’s vaccine mandate for city employees and contracted nonprofit workers.

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