Voters yet to have all financial disclosure information for three gubernatorial hopefuls
As voters weigh who to support in the upcoming Democratic and Republican primaries for New York governor, they do so knowing neither all sources of personal income for three candidates nor how much they earned.
One candidate, Republican Andrew Giuliani, of Manhattan, who topped a recent Zogby poll on the race, has failed to file his financial disclosure report with the state’s Joint Committee on Public Ethics, which could lead to fines of up to $40,000.
Two other candidates – Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-Nassau, and Sc Republican Harry Wilson – were granted an extension by JCOPE for disclosing their incomes because they filed for extensions on their 2021 tax returns.
Disclosure laws were put in place so that voters can make an informed choice, knowing how a candidate makes a living. These disclosures allow the public to evaluate potential conflicts of interest, said Horner, and can serve as a check on candidates who might be looking to benefit from an infusion of cash from special interests before they run.
“It’s very simple: if an individual wants to be a public official, they should follow the law,” said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group.
Rob Astorino and Ron Lauder
For candidates who work as freelance consultants while campaigning, such as former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, financial disclosure reports can also provide a glimpse into their political ideology.
In his second bid for governor, Astorino, the Mount Pleasant Republican, reported that he earned between $250,000 and $350,000 in 2021 from a company led by billionaire Ron Lauder. Astorino’s work for Lauder in 2021 included assistance in the Lauder-financed campaign in 2021 to defeat three constitutional amendments on the November ballot that would have made it easier to vote by absentee ballot in New York and improve the redistricting process.
“He put a lot of money into that issue,” said Astorino. “Thank God he did, because it failed. And it should have failed.”
The USA TODAY Network’s review of the disclosure statements for the seven candidates comes less than two weeks before early voting begins for the primaries on June 18, with Election Day on June 28.
Running for the Democratic nomination are Gov. Kathy Hochul, of Buffalo; Jumaane Willams, New York City’s public advocate; and Suozzi.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-Suffolk, joins Giuliani, Astorino and Wilson in the Republican primary.
Andrew Giuliani snubs JCOPE
Giuliani's failure to file his financial disclosure statement has raised questions about how the son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani has supported himself since he left his most recent job in March 2021 as a news anchor and political analyst on Newsmax, the right-leaning cable television news channel.
A resident of New York’s high-priced Battery Park, Guiliani worked for Newsmax in February and March 2021 after serving as associate director of the White House Office of Public Liaison in the Trump administration.
“Since then, I have volunteered my time to run for office,” said Giuliani in a written statement.
Giuliani declined to respond to questions about his delinquent disclosure statement.
At a press conference Monday at the Putnam County Golf Course in Mahopac, Astorino said Giuliani needs to comply with the law.
“They should all have done what they were supposed to do,” said Astorino. “I did what I was supposed to do. Perhaps I could have gotten an extension until after the primary if I wanted to. But I don’t think it was necessary or the right thing to do.”
Giuliani, who lives at 400 Chambers St., was notified confidentially on May 12 that his disclosure statement was delinquent. He was instructed to file it by May 27. On May 31, he was sent a delinquency notice, which gave him until June 24 to explain why he had failed to file.
The Republican gubernatorial primary is on June 28.
Harry Wilson's extension
Wilson, who came close to defeating state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in 2010, has amassed a fortune in the business world through his company, the Maeva Group, which works to restructure struggling companies. He and his wife have between $3.2 million and $4.4 million in retirement accounts. The Wilsons also own stocks valued at between $16 million and $17.5 million.
His biggest investments – about $4 million each – are with Global Horizon Corp., which manufactures tow truck and truck trailers, and equity investments through his own company.
Wilson received an extension from JCOPE on disclosing his income because he has an extension on filing his IRS returns.
“As a successful turnaround expert, Harry has complex taxes that require extensions every year,” said Wilson spokesperson Christine Lenzo. “He plans to update his extensive and already submitted financial disclosure as soon as those returns are complete.”
Lenzo did not respond when asked when Wilson expected to file his 2021 tax returns.
Tom Suozzi's stock holdings
Suozzi, the former Nassau County executive, cited his extension on filing his IRS returns for failing to fully disclose his income, his interests in contracts with the state of New York and his extensive stock holdings.
Suozzi’s trading in stocks was the focus of September 2021 complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics by the Washington D.C.-based Campaign Legal Center. The center questioned Suozzi’s 300 stock trades from 2017 to 2020, valued at between $3.2 million and $10 million. The Center found that Suozzi had failed to make timely reports on the trades as required to federal law.
Disposition of the complaint has yet to be made public, said a spokesman for the center.
A spokesman for Suozzi said that the congressman recently filed his IRS returns and expects to amend his JCOPE filing soon.
"Tom received an extension on his personal income taxes, so the information necessary to answer the questions on the JCOPE filing was not available at the time it was due,” said campaign spokesman Jason Elan on Monday. “Tom has since filed his income taxes and released them publicly. He is working on his amended JCOPE filing and expects to submit it in the next few days.”
Astorino consulting clients
Astorino, who served two terms as Westchester County executive, has thrived in the private sector since he lost his bid for a third term in 2017, with consulting gigs involved in real estate and religion.
In 2019, he earned between $426,000 and $675,000, which included between $150,000 and $250,000 from the Archdiocese of New York to coordinate 11 grant applications from the Archdiocese to the Mother Cabrini Foundation.
Two years later, Astorino’s income was between $315,000 and $525,000.
His top client in 2021 was RSL Investments, Corp., a company controlled by Ron Lauder, who is also president of the World Jewish Congress. Lauder is also a player in New York politics.
In 2021, he contributed $4 million to the state Conservative Party, which waged a successful campaign against the Democrat-backed state Constitutional amendments. Those proposed amendments would have allowed same-day voter registration to vote and the elimination of New York’s requirement that you need an excuse to vote by absentee ballot.
Astorino also worked for a developer in Connecticut, another company controlled by the Kalikow real estate family in Manhattan, and LRC Construction LLC, run by prominent Westchester developer Louis Cappelli.
Astorino earned between $20,000 and $50,000 from Cappelli’s company in 2021.
“He had some development issues and stuff that he wanted me talk about on what he thought the political ramifications would be, what they would be like in the neighborhood,” Astorino said. “Also, I would, as I have done for others, review some of the proposals to see where I thought it would be a problem, both good and bad.”
Cappelli, who has known Astorino since the 1990s, said he has sought the former county executive input on possible new building at Cappelli's Summit office park in Valhalla, where he is considering building housing or a new office building.
"I need all the advice I get for somebody who is smart and knows politics," said Cappelli.
Candidate financial disclosure reports:
- Andrew Giuliani: Did not file his financial disclosure statement
- Lee Zeldin and spouse income: $260,000 to $440,000; investments: $54,000 to $160,000.
- Rob Astorino and spouse income: $390,000 to $625,000; investments: $575,000 to $955,000
- Harry Wilson and spouse, income: Did not disclose. Investments: $19.2 million to $22 million
- Tom Suozzi and spouse income: $172,145 from U.S. Congress but did not disclose capital gains or spouse's income. Investments: Did not disclose.
- Jumaane Williams and spouse income: $255,000 to $520,000. Investments: $10,000 to $75,000.
- Kathy Hochul and spouse income: $610,000 to $978,000. Investments: $1.4 million to $3.4 million.
Follow Tax Watch columnist David McKay Wilson on Facebook or Twitter @davidmckaywils1. He has written about Hudson Valley public affairs since 1986. Check out his latest columns at lohud.com