Westside Wonderland

Are Giuliani and Pataki Planning a Stadium December Surprise?

Ironically, the firm has not given a dime to the state Democratic committee or McCall. Harding donated $1000 to Eliot Spitzer, the Democratic– Liberal candidate for attorney general. Chuck Schumer has collected $7000 from the firm, including $2000 from Fischbein's wife.

Harding's firm is so intertwined with the Libs that it has at times kept the party alive financially, giving six-figures since 1994, especially in down periods when little else was coming in. While the firm and party's Republican connections at a city level are well-known, their growing ties to the state GOP have gone largely unnoticed. The firm has entered the state bond business, representing underwriters and issuers, a highly political arena in the Pataki era. It is even representing Bear Stearns, the Pataki administration's favorite underwriter and employer of one of D'Amato's sons.

Another firm customer—developer David Walentas, one of Rick Fischbein's closest and oldest clients—is seeking Pataki approval for a major, park-connected project on the Brooklyn waterfront, Fulton Landing. Walentas and his wife maxed out on the most recent Pataki filing, donating $28,000 apiece.

With an administration that rewards its friends and punishes its enemies more openly than a crime family, the firm's GOP coziness suggests that state officials are not exactly displeased with Harding's Ross ride. Fear of her drained Vallone of all his campaign cash in the primary. Her presence on the line is also an insurance policy for Pataki—if the November race gets tight, a commercial spotlight on her could take points away from a surging Vallone.

The soap opera continues as well. Still married to Betsy but living apart, Wilbur is now facing a civil suit from his first wife, who claims he hid stock assets from her in their 1995 divorce. As the Voice reported last month, the judge on the case is Walter Tolub, the only Liberal on the bench in Manhattan, a close friend and neighbor of Harding's, whose wife has contributed almost $17,000 to the party. Tolub's 10-year term is up next year and his reelection hinges on the support of the Liberal Party and the Lexington Club, a powerful Democratic club that covers the Eastside judicial district that he represents.

While Harding has been publicly assailing Wilbur, Larry Rosenstock, the elected Democratic district leader from the Lexington Club, has been representing Ross in the case before Tolub. Rosenstock's partner handled the Ross divorce, passing the stock case on to him, even before it was assigned to Tolub.

Manhattan Democratic leader Denny Farrell has put out the word that he wants to dump Tolub, making Rosenstock's position on the usually routine renomination of an incumbent particularly crucial. Reached on the phone about this array of conflicts, Tolub hung up. Rosenstock said if he saw it as a conflict, he "wouldn't be involved" when the nomination process starts next year.

Real liberals, of course, have the option of voting for Vallone on the Working Families line. It's a new, labor-backed party that is organizing statewide to replace the Libs—whose identification with the most right-wing mayor in the city's modern history has erased the ideological affinity many once felt for it.

Research: David Kihara, David Shaftel, and Nicole White

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