Catsimatidis’ charitable donations irk mayoral rivals

Billionaire is using his wealth to sway voters, candidates say
August 28, 2013 10:29AM

Billionaire real estate mogul and mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis’ rivals have accused him of making a flurry of donations throughout the city in the hope of getting votes for his campaign.

In March, Catsimatidis donated $25,000 to a Staten Island food drive, his first donation to the charity. A month later, he shelled out $5,000 to the Kings County Memorial Day Parade, his first donation to the parade. And in June, he committed to match up to $100,000 in donations to the National Lighthouse Museum of Staten Island, also his first contribution to that organization.

The sudden munificence has infuriated his opponents. “From day one John has tossed around his billions to try and buy this election, but exploiting those that are less fortunate for political gain is a new low,” Jessica Proud, a spokeswoman for Joe Lhota, Catsimatidis’ chief Republican rival, told the Wall Street Journal.

On Tuesday, George McDonald, another rival in the race, filed a complaint with the Campaign Finance Board seen by the newspaper. In the complaint, McDonald wrote that Catsimatidis’s contributions have frequently been announced “in concert with political events” and cited in campaign tweets and news accounts.

Catsimatidis – who is the only major mayoral candidate to decline to release his tax returns — said he isn’t using his vast personal wealth to attract political support. “I want to puke when people suggest that,” he said.

He added that he has contributed roughly $1.5 million to $2 million annually for the past three to four years.

“I think they’re cheap,” Catsimatidis said of his opponents. “I want to see what they give.” [WSJ]Hiten Samtani