The Kessel NYPA Watch, June 1, 2009 – By George J. Marlin
Richie Kessel: BIG Republican Political Donor
“I lost contact with Richie Kessel, who somehow was able to swim the political rapids from the Democratic side to the Republican side.”
– Mario Cuomo
While a professed life-long Democrat, Kessel’s State political contributions, all a matter of public record on the State Board of Elections web site, belie his protestations. Kessel in fact donated a total of $1,600 to Republican George Pataki and did not donate personally to his successor, Governor Eliot Spitzer or then-Lieutenant Governor David Paterson or now Governor Paterson. While press reports stated that Kessel attended Attorney General Cuomo’s recent Long Island fundraiser, there is no record of Kessel contributing to AG Cuomo then, prior to or in the past three years since the AG’s 2006 election. (Street Corner Conservative will be following any political giving by Kessel this year and next.) To be complete, Kessel has donated to appointed Comptroller DiNapoli, now a State-wide official, on multiple occasions.
Some speculate that Kessel’s multiple contributions to Pataki were to curry favor with the GOP Governor who said the following in 1994: “I think they’ve [LILCO] been poorly run. But on the other hand, I think if there is anybody who could run it worse, it would be Richie Kessel.” In 1995, however, Pataki reversed himself and hired Kessel as LIPA Chair and CEO in 1997, confident that in an effort to keep his LIPA job, Kessel would do as directed. In addition, Pataki surely knew that Kessel’s closest political friends and patrons were three powerful Long Island Republicans, Al D’Amato, Joe Mondello and Dean Skelos, who would have a direct pipeline to Kessel. In 2008, lobbyist D’Amato and then Majority Leader Skelos intervened with the hapless Paterson Administration to secure Richie his latest political sinecure at NYPA.
Specifically, based on Board of Elections records, Richie has given to Republican Governor Pataki, then-Republican Senator Mike Balboni and current Republican Senator Ken LaValle and Republican Assemblyman McDonough. Richie’s friendship with former Republican Senate Majority Leader Skelos may explain why Richie has not donated to any Democratic candidate for State Senate, a top priority of State and Long Island Dems. On the other side of the aisle, Richie has donated to some Democrats in addition to DiNapoli, including Democrat Roger Corbin who was recently arrested by the FBI for accepting over $200,000 from a Nassau County housing developer and forgetting to declare it on his income taxes. Corbin is, of course, entitled to the presumption of innocence. Newsday reports that the Corbin investigation continues. We find it interesting that Richie has not contributed to either County Executive Tom Suozzi or Nassau Comptroller Weitzman in either of their races. Given his long-standing interest in the County Executive’s seat, Richie may have wanted to avoid supporting someone he might one day oppose in a Democratic primary for County Executive, a race Kessel lost to Ben Zwirn a number of years ago.
Lastly, we note Mrs. Richie Kessel donated to Town of Hempstead Republican Supervisor Kate Murray in her last re-election campaign in 2007. Street Corner Conservative understands that Kessel’s spouse works for the Town of Hempstead in a patronage position. Supervisor Murray, of course, is the official who many believe is holding up approvals on the Lighthouse Project at the Nassau Coliseum. Those wishing to follow this from home can go to the Board of Elections web site at www.elections.state.ny.us.