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
A onetime banker with U.S. Trust, Marlin went from being a low-level giver to the party, donating $60 in March 1994, to giving $1250 before and $2000 after his appointment was announced. When he left the $2.7 billion Port Authority in 1997, his donations dropped again. The Times denounced his appointment as "a particularly offensive act of patronage" and initially urged Pataki to "withdraw" Marlin's name, describing him as "a Conservative Party leader with no significant managerial experience."The governor's only trustee at the School Construction Authority, Paul Atanasio, was the party's congressional candidate in a district that included Bay Ridge in 1980 and has known Long for decades, going back to their Marine days. Though Atanasio switched his registration to Republican years ago, he and other members of his family have long given to the party, and he remains a prominent guest at the party's annual dinner.
Atanasio is so close to Long, he hired him. When Pataki took office, Atanasio was working in the public finance department at Chemical Securities, seeking city and state underwriting business. He immediately put the liquor salesman on Chemical's payroll as a $5000-a-month consultant. Now with Bear Stearns, Atanasio is winning more state business than any other underwriter, but with the media hoopla over Long's earlier hiring, he didn't bring Long to Bear.
Atanasio's top aide at the SCA, Fran Vella Marrone, who holds several posts with the party, brought her husband Gary into the agency as a project officer assigned to oversee renovations at several city schools. Both quit the agency in May when the Voice raised questions about Gary Marrone's failure to require sidewalk-shed protection at a Brooklyn school where 15-year-old Yan Zhen Zhao was killed by a brick that fell from the ongoing roofing job. Fran Marrone had prevailed on SCA officials to hire her husband, despite an agency nepotism ban.
Since Atanasio's arrival at the SCA, at least one authority contractor, CEMA Construction, has become a Conservative donor, giving $4000 starting in October 1995. The firm did low-level work with the agency beginning in 1993 with a $200,000 contract. It has had 13 contracts since 1995, including three current jobs valued at over a million each.
Another contractor that was seeking to overturn its debarment by the authority and do business with it again, Hercules Construction, gave $10,400 to the party in 1995. The company had a long relationship with Atanasio, giving the maximum allowable to his congressional campaign. It also employed Gary Marrone immediately prior to his joining the SCA. Hercules's president, Gregory Rigas, was under federal investigation at the time of the company's Conservative contributions, so the agency's inspector general was able to resist efforts to restore it to the SCA eligibility list. Rigas eventually pled guilty to defrauding the agency.Though Atanasio went unmentioned, the SCAConservative Party connection emerged in a Post series in July on John Gotti Jr. Vincent Zollo, an SCA contractor who had Gotti on his payroll, was picked up on tape talking to Ed Bergassi, a Westchester businessman who's given $7375 to the Conservatives since 1994. Bergassi frequents the party's events and is a personal friend of Atanasio and Long.
Advising Zollo in 1996 on how to deal with the SCA, which was investigating his company's alleged underpayment of workers on two agency jobs, Bergassi suggested that he quickly buy two $500 tickets to an upcoming Conservative event. "I want you to be on that team there," Bergassi said, "because we're having something, the annual dinner. I just want you to be involved in that." While party records do not list a Zollo ticket purchase that October, Bergassi made two contributions--one his usual $500 and the other for $1000.
Appointed by Pataki as a commissioner at the State Insurance Fund, Bergassi flashed his ties to the governor during the conversation with Zollo and resigned when the tapes became public. Zollo was subsequently indicted on an array of charges, including drug trafficking.Federal prosecutors are now probing Bear Stearns's selection as the lead underwriter for the massive LIPA bond issue. The critical decision-maker was Pat Foye, LIPA's deputy chair and a member of the Conservative's executive committee. Bear acknowledged when they hired Atanasio in 1995 that his job was to seek state underwriting work, and the first major deal he brought in was a no-bid, $100 million job from the Port Authority personally approved by George Marlin. Even before that award, Marlin steered a $500,000 consulting contract to Chemical Securities, where Atanasio worked at the time and had placed Long on the payroll.
Several LIPA underwriters and consultants have become Conservative donors, including Artemis Capital Group ($6000), Roosevelt & Cross ($10,300), Paine Webber ($1000), and Hawkins, Delafield (the firm and one member have contributed $5000). Brooklyn Union Gas, which merged with Long Island Lighting as part of the LIPA deal, has added $4100.The Rent Stabilization Association, its Neighborhood Preservation PAC, RSA leader Leonard Litwin and the American Property Rights Association, an organization of owners of small residential buildings, have combined to give the party $170,670 since 1994. Almost all of it came in after Pataki's election, and the Conservatives lobbied the governor and the senate strongly during last year's bitter battle over the stabilization laws.
Similarly, Philip Morris has given to the party nine times, totaling $36,325, starting in October 1995. Long is a member of the National Smokers Alliance, and his party vigorously opposes smoking restrictions and hikes in cigarette taxes. In addition, dozens of tobacco distributors have donated tens of thousands to the party.