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Hochul’s record fundraising draws suspicions amid pay-to-play allegations

Growing questions about alleged pay-to-play schemes have not stopped Gov. Kathy Hochul from raising money at a record pace in recent months from people whose own bottom lines are affected by her official decision-making.

Hollywood types. Real estate kingpins. Health care leaders and registered lobbyists. All of them and more were among the hundreds of people contributing at least $10,000 to her campaign, according to a campaign filing released Friday.

“Governor Hochul’s extraordinary fundraising efforts once again show her widespread support and momentum heading into the final stretch of the election,” Hochul campaign spokeswoman Jen Goodman said in a press release.

And many of her biggest donors stand to personally benefit from favorable treatment made by Hochul, who has denied her administration would ever do such a thing.

Her latest filing shows her with $11.7 million on hand ahead of the Nov. 8 election against Republican nominee Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Suffolk), who announced Friday night he had $4.5 million to spend with four weeks to go until voting ends.

Her biggest donors include Haim Chera, the head of retail at Vornado Realty, who gave Hochul $47,700 a little over a week after her administration’s economic development arm rubber-stamped a plan overhauling the Penn Station area championed by the company.

This comes roughly a year after the "West Side Story" director wrapped up shooting in New York where a controversial tax credit for film and TV was extended by the budget Hochul signed into law in April despite questions about its benefit to taxpayers.
Steven Spielberg and his wife Kate Capshaw each gave $47,100 to Hochul in August.
Getty Images

Vornado CEO Steve Roth had previously contributed the maximum $68,700 to her campaign.

The incumbent Democrat has raised a record $45.8 million in her run for a full term in office – roughly $15 million more than ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo burned in his 2018 campaign.

The GOP standard bearer is stuck playing catch-up in the money game against Hochul while outside groups assail her with the help of at least $4.45 million from conservative mega-donor Ronald Lauder, whose son William Lauder gave Hochul $40,000 in August.

“Kickback Kathy is desperate to cash in on as many pay to play campaign donations as possible, selling access to our government so she can try to cover up her abysmal record on the issues most important to New Yorkers,” Zeldin said in a statement.

His latest campaign filing was not released by Friday night while his efforts continued to criticize Hochul of her own fundraising.

Others giving to Hochul include filmmaker Steven Spielberg and his wife Kate Capshaw, who each gave $47,100 to Hochul in August roughly a year after the “West Side Story” director wrapped up shooting in New York where a controversial tax credit for film and TV was extended by the budget Hochul signed into law in April despite questions about its benefit to taxpayers.

Katzenberg is among one of Hochul's high-power donors.
Former Walt Disney Studios Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg gave Hochul $25,000.
Getty Images

Former Walt Disney Studios Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg gave Hochul a relatively paltry $25,000 while Henry Munoz of Somos Community Care gave her $24,302 weeks ago.

Wireless tech magnate John Mezzalingua, a champion of legislation to have the federal government subsidize chip development with billions in subsidies, gave $47,100 to the governor weeks after she got gruff from good government groups for signing into law tax breaks at the state level.

“This is Albany at its worst,” government watchdog Reinvent Albany said at the time about the bill passed with little notice by the state Legislature.

Zeldin has significantly less money in the bank than Hochul.
Ronald Lauder has donated at least $4.45 million to Lee Zeldin’s campaign.
dpa/picture alliance via Getty I

Albany lobbyists David Weinraub and Tonio Burgos each gave $10,000 to the incumbent Democrats as her administration prepares plans for the upcoming state budget either she or Zeldin will unveil next January – depending on who wins the November election.

The Long Island pol, who is trailing Hochul in polling, has tried to leverage Hochul’s cash edge to his advantage amid growing questions surrounding alleged pay-to-play schemes between Hochul and campaign donors.

The governor has denied giving preferential treatment to anybody, whether they are a donor tied to $300,000 in campaign cash and a no-bid $637 million contract with the state, a billionaire hospital honcho or big givers tied to Vornado.

Democratic political consultant Camille Rivera said Friday big political headaches could hit Hochul despite the benefits in the short-term questionable donors might give her against Zeldin in the coming weeks.

“This has the ability to erode and fester after her win. The amount she raised has always been a liability not just a show of strength,” Rivera told The Post.

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