Pols return campaign contributions from police groups
by Benjamin Fang
Jun 10, 2020 | 1268 views | 0 0 comments | 88 88 recommendations | email to a friend | print
More than a dozen city and state elected officials have donated campaign contributions from law enforcement groups to bail funds, mutual aid organizations and other causes in light of nationwide protests against police brutality after the killing of George Floyd.

According to a spreadsheet created by Queens activist Aaron Fernando, who compiled a comprehensive list of campaign dollars accepted from police officers, corrections officers and court officers organizations, $58,850 in contributions have been redistributed in total.

In Queens, seven lawmakers who took “cop money” have donated the funds. State Senator Michael Gianaris, who received $18,650, including $12,500 from police officers’ groups, will give $20,000 to bail funds and local mutual aid organizations. He added that he will not accept money from police PACs going forward.

“We need to call out injustice, but most of all we must act,” he said on Twitter last week.

Similarly, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, who received $4,350 in contributions, including $2,850 from correction officers groups, will donate $5,350 to bail fund organizations.

Both Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz and Councilman Francisco Moya shared on Twitter that they will each donate $1,000 to bail funds.

“I stand with our community,” Cruz wrote. “There won’t be peace until we all draw a clear line in the sand and fight for what’s right.”

State Senator Jessica Ramos, who received $3,000 in contributions from police officers and correctional officers groups, will redirect that money to the Street Vendor Project.

Assemblyman Jeff Aubry also donated $500 that his campaign received from the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association to the East Elmhurst Corona Civic Association, which has been providing COVID-19 relief efforts.

“My record on criminal justice reform is unparalleled,” Aubry said on Twitter, “and I will not leave space for anyone to question who I am or what I believe.”

Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, who has received more than $20,000 in campaign contributions from law enforcement groups, announced that he would donate $10,000 to Elmcor Youth and Adult Activities, and $3,000 to Marguerite’s Food Pantry.

The latter organization holds a monthly food giveaway to needy families at Our Lady of Fatima Church in East Elmhurst, the lawmaker said.

“I care deeply about all of my neighbors, and I am tired of all the repeated injustices that have been perpetrated against people of color, especially by police officers,” DenDekker said in a statement. “I am committed to making significant changes to law enforcement so that illegal misconduct is properly punished and that the police are held accountable.”

Several Brooklyn legislators have also pledged to donate their campaign contributions from law enforcement.

Assemblywoman Martiza Davila, whose re-election effort collected $2,500 from the Court Officers Association, said she will donate that money to the North Brooklyn Coalition Against Family Violence. That group has been “at the forefront” of tackling domestic violence in the community, she said.

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol shared in a statement that he will donate $5,000 in police union contributions to Communities United for Police Reform, a coalition of groups that push for police accountability and reform. He added that he won’t accept future contributions.

“It is time for real accountability, real reform and a real return to community policing,” Lentol said. “I look forward to being a part of this effort, and hope that this small donation will help in this effort.”

Assemblywoman Diana Richardson from central Brooklyn will also donate $1,000 that her campaign received from the corrections officers group to support the HALT Solitary Confinement campaign.

“Solitary confinement is not restorative,” she wrote on Twitter, “and police violence is killing us.”

Despite the redistribution of campaign donations, some Assembly challengers are calling out their opponents for affiliation with law enforcement groups in the first place.

Zohran Mamdani, who is challenging Simotas in Astoria, noted that the incumbent was criticized on the issue for at least 20 minutes before her announcement.

“Our district is the most progressive in New York, and we deserve representatives who will truly lead on issues important to our communities,” he said in a statement, “not ones who only do the right thing when the press is watching.”

Jennifer Gonzalez-Rojas, who is challenging DenDekker in a district that includes Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst and Woodside, said in a statement that the incumbent is not donating all of the money he received from law enforcement groups.

She noted that while DenDekker is backing the repeal of 50-a, which prevents police misconduct from being made public, he does not support other reforms like special prosecutor legislation or the Police Statistics and Transparency (STAT) Act.

Gonzalez-Rojas also called on the incumbent to renounce his endorsement by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which she said has blocked police accountability reforms.

“Assembly member DenDekker continues to stand in the way of police accountability and racial justice,” she said in a statement. “We need a representative who will stand up for the district, which is 88 percent people of color, not law enforcement PACs that attempt to squash important criminal justice reforms.”
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