Hochul awards $ 25 million as beneficiary-hosted campaign event

ALBANY – Last week, when Gov. Kathy Hochul announced nearly $ 25 million in public funds to help nonprofits guard against hate crimes, she was presented at the Manhattan event by Maury Litwack.

Litwack is the Managing Director of Public Affairs for the Orthodox Union, an influential nonprofit that represents more than 400 Orthodox synagogues nationwide, and a key player in promoting security funding to combat violence. anti-Semite.

“We are so lucky that she is leading our state to a better future,” said Litwack, presenting Hochul Wednesday morning at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

It wasn’t the only interaction between Litwack and Hochul that day. According to a person familiar with the matter, the Litwack and Hochul campaign team organized an event for the governor which took place hours later, during which they met with potential donors from the Orthodox Jewish community.

Hochul’s campaign manager told The Times Union it was a ‘meet and greet’ event – not fundraising for the campaign – but declined to say whether the campaign de Hochul had collected checks at the event. Hochul, who was sworn in as governor in August to fulfill the unexpired term of former governor Andrew M. Cuomo, is a Democratic frontrunner in next year’s gubernatorial race.

Litwack also declined to say whether Hochul’s campaign received any donations at the event following his announcement at the Battery Park Jewish Heritage Museum.

“I and other community leaders arranged to meet with the new governor well in advance of this week’s announcement,” Litwack said in an email. “This meeting was not nor designed to be a fundraiser. The leaders of our community meet with all levels of government and all office holders and candidates for office all the time.”

The situation highlights the challenge Hochul faces in leading the New York government, while also trying to quickly raise large amounts of money for the campaign – all while trying to present herself on a platform that features her as a reformer.

During Hochul’s first 45 days in office, she was careful to distance herself from Cuomo, for whom she served as lieutenant governor. But there is one aspect of Cuomo’s operation that Hochul seems to be trying to emulate: his prodigious fundraising campaign.

The CFO for Hochul’s 2022 gubernatorial campaign is Casey Ryan, according to his LinkedIn profile. Ryan previously worked as a fundraiser for Cuomo’s campaign from 2015 to 2017, when he was deputy chief financial officer.

Cuomo was one of the most prolific political fundraisers in the country, but was criticized for receiving huge donations from people and organizations who had connections with his administration. Cuomo’s donations were a key part of the 2018 upstate bid-rigging case that trapped several Cuomo associates; For his part, Cuomo has often said that donations never had an impact on government decisions.

Faced with the likely prospect of a competitive Democratic primary in June, Hochul tries to raise significant campaign funds in a short period of time: According to a recent New York Times article, at least $ 10 million by the end of the year and up to $ 25 million by next summer. If his war chest is formidable, it could potentially deter potential opponents from joining the race.

The Times reported on a recent meeting Hochul had in New York City with two dozen well-connected real estate developers, businessmen and lobbyists. The real estate industry was among Cuomo’s biggest campaign donors; the event raised approximately $ 200,000. And the Times reported that Mercury Public Affairs, a lobbying and public relations firm with a large presence in Albany, is planning a fundraiser for Hochul in October, with tickets starting at $ 15,000.

When Cuomo was governor, leaders of the Orthodox Union – the organization where Litwack is a lobbyist – made a series of donations to Cuomo, just after making an announcement regarding the same program Hochul promoted to announce the $ 25 million. dollars in state funding for security improvements at 362 nonprofit Jewish establishments.

Four years ago, Cuomo announced that applications from private schools and nonprofit daycares would be accepted for the $ 25 million of its Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes grant program, which aimed to protect against hate crimes. targeting organizations because of their ideology, beliefs. or mission.

A day later after his announcement, Cuomo received a donation of $ 5,000 from Allen Fagin – then CEO and executive vice president of the Orthodox Union – as well as others closely associated with the group, including Barry Lovell ( $ 10,000), Elliott Gibber ($ 25,000), Howard Balter ($ 10,000) and Jack Bendheim ($ 5,000).

Bendheim told The Times Union he was not aware of the Hochul campaign event last Wednesday.

In January 2020, when Cuomo announced the release of $ 45 million in funding to protect institutions at risk, the Orthodox Union said in a press release that one of its projects – the nonprofit group Teach NYS – had been “instrumental” in creating the anti-hate crime program in the 2019 state budget.

Litwack, who hosted last Wednesday’s Hochul campaign event, is the executive director of Teach Coalition, a nonprofit that includes Teach NYS, and advocates for funding for non-public schools, including yeshiva schools in the Orthodox community. Cuomo released the $ 45 million shortly after the December 2019 attack on a Hasidic rabbi’s home in Monsey, Rockland County, one of a series of anti-Semitic attacks in recent years.

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