By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Milton Kalin wants you all to know that his publicly funded charity, Southeast Nassau Guidance Center, meant no harm when it mass-mailed Year 200 calendars dedicated to county Legis. Ed Ward one week before the Nov. 2 election.
Sure, the calendar featured Ward on the cover, and yes, it contained a long rhapsody about his achievements, and OK, it arrived on Seaford voters' doorsteps just days before they decide the Republican lawmaker's fatebut no, it wasn't political advertising. "He's a legislator from our district, and he's done a lot of things for us," says Kalin, executive director of the mental-health agency. "He's been there for us, so now it's time for us to honor him."
Federal law prohibits charitable organizations such as Kalin's from getting involved in politics. In addition to funding from Long Island's United Way, the Guidance Center receives support from state and county mental-health agencies. It is also eligible to receive tax-deductible public donations.
Calls to Ward, the Nassau GOP and Long Island's United Way weren't returned by press time.
Ward's opponent in the close race for the 19th District, Democrat David Denenberg, says he questions why the agency didn't wait a few days until the balloting was over before sending out the calendars. Denenberg says he's considering asking the state to investigate the Guidance Center's charter. "Why couldn't you wait until Nov. 2 to honor this guy?" he says. "I don't know anybody who sends out calendars in October."
It's not unusual for nonprofits to honor elected officials with awards, but sometimes they give more than plaques or calendars. A recent Long Island Voice inspection of campaign-finance reports from County Executive Tom Gulotta and the Nassau GOP showed unlawful contributions by charities ranging from the Baldwin Little League to the Nassau Pops Symphony Orchestra and the Nassau County Museum of Art [Charity of the gods, Oct. 14].
Kalin, for his part, admits he could have timed his mailing better, but insists he wasn't trying to use public money or charitable contributions to campaign for Ward. He says he was just trying to give recognition to someone who has worked hard for mental-health programs in Seaford. If that recognition extends to the legislator's having "upgraded Wantagh Park," "restored funding for volunteer firemen's training" and helped "revitalize downtown business districts," what of it?
"You're honoring him as a legislator, that he's good for the community," Kalin says. "We're not doing anything wrong and we're not hurting anyone."