By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
Carl McCall's stealth opponent for state comptroller, Bruce Blakeman, is quietly getting a lot of network airtime upstate in commercials paid for by the state Republican Party. The frequent ads picture and praise the golden-boy candidate with the start-up résumé in between 10-second promos of Governor Pataki and Senator D'Amato, just as 30-second spots fully devoted to him are finally beginning to appear on selected downstate cable stations.
It's hard to make much of Blakeman's brief stint as majority leader of Nassau County's two-and-half-year-old legislature, or of his so far scant campaign financial-disclosure filings. But if McCall's flaw is collecting contributions from beneficiaries of his public discretion--such as the pension fund managers named in Clifford Levy's recent Timesexposé--Blakeman has the same, predictable problem.
Of the $848,141 in reported Blakeman contributions, $17,700 came from a half dozen Nassau police and security unions, including $5000 from the PBA itself. Nick Baudo, head of the Superior Officers Association, is a vice chair of Blakeman's finance committee, and was one of the hosts of Blakeman's biggest fundraiser, a recent cocktail party and dinner held, appropriately enough, at the Louis XVI Library on the second floor of the St. Regis Hotel.
Blakeman pushed through an astronomical 24 percent pay hike for Nassau cops in 1997, mandating a $73,859 salary for officers with seven years experience, an award that was blasted by the Nassau County comptroller.
When Blakeman is not dunning those who do business with the county government for donations, he's turning to his family, especially father-in-law Mike Shevell, the CEO of New England Motor Freight (NEMF), a mob-tied trucking firm based in New Jersey. Blakeman's filing lists an extraordinary 18 trucking-related companies in eight states that made ''in-kind'' contributions to the campaign totaling $32,258.
One company, Eastern Freight Ways, has long been owned by Shevell, while another is listed at Shevell's Elizabeth corporate address. The companies provided T-shirts, signs, equipment, photos, and phones to the campaign, also covering $15,131 in costs associated with fundraisers and $1400 in ''office expenses.''
In addition to these donations--which suggest the pivotal role the trucking business is playing in the campaign--Jon Shevell, Blakeman's brother-in-law who's also an NEMF officer, kicked in $2300, and Stern & Greenberg, the company's law firm, gave $2500. New Jersey businesses and individuals donated $117,050.
When Mike Shevell gave $1000 to Richard Zimmer, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in New Jersey in 1996, Democrat Bob Torricelli, who eventually defeated Zimmer, made a major issue of it, noting that Shevell was accused of making mob payoffs in a civil racketeering suit filed by the U.S. Attorney in 1988. The suit charged that Shevell ''cultivated'' an 11-year ''corrupt relationship'' with Tony Provenzano, then president of a notorious Teamster local, and that Shevell bought a sweetheart contract and ultimately deunionization. Provenzano was a convicted racketeer and murderer associated with Genovese crime family boss Matty ''the Horse'' Ianiello.
In a wiretapped conversation, Ianiello suggested that NEMF's sister company, Eastern Freight Ways, which employed Provenzano's brother Angelo, was a mob front. Referring to the Shevell firm, Ianiello said, ''Yeah, we formed a truck company.'' The government brief charged that Shevell's ''aberrant labor practices served as a conspicuously negative example of union corruption within the trucking industry,'' and that his company's racketeering activity with the union ''tended to exacerbate the extortionate climate of intimidation'' that permeated the Provenzano reign.
Pressed by the Voice about this lawsuit at the state GOP convention in June, Shevell, who was seated in the front row near his son-in-law, insisted that the suit was settled without any concession of wrongdoing, adding, ''There was nothing there.'' The Voice has obtained an 11-page consent decree signed in September 1989 by Stern & Greenberg, acting as Shevell's attorney. In addition to spelling out a detailed set of restrictions governing NEMF's labor relations, the decree barred Shevell from ''personally engaging in labor negotiations with representatives of any labor organization'' for as long as five years.
While the decree cannot be ''deemed an admission of any violations of law,'' its preamble noted that the U.S. Attorney and Shevell ''have maintained different positions'' on the charges. Indeed, the government, in its amended complaint, listed as its central demand precisely what Shevell ultimately conceded--namely, that he would be removed from any union negotiations. In addition to the decree, a top Teamster official, Michael Sciarra, who was apparently installed by Ianiello, was barred from the union for life, based principally on the evidence of his role in dealings with NEMF.
Blakeman has acted as NEMF's attorney, and his wife Nancy is the company's vice president.
Chuck Schumer's attempt last week to make Al D'Amato's abortion position a key issue in the Senate campaign got lost in all the coverage of their commercial air war. Schumer made no mention at his Tuesday press conference, however, of the freshest evidence of D'Amato's prolife commitments:D'Amato paid for six statewide mailings to 49,112 Right to Life Party members in an effort to win its hotly contested September 15 primary, including a letter from Bob Dole, who said that ''as the Senate Majority Leader,'' he knew he ''could always count on Al D'Amato to stick with us on every pro-life vote, and so can you.'' Other mailings came from Lena Harknett, the party's state chair as well as the National Right to Life organization.