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Goodman joined the Century Club, an exclusive all-men's association at 7 West 43rd Street, in 1985, at the same time that the New York City Human Rights Commission launched an investigation to determine if it and two other clubs were violating city antidiscrimination laws. The same year that Goodman joined, Robert Bork, who later became an unsuccessful GOP nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, quit the club. Bork told the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1987 that he left "when I became aware that there was a dispute as to whether a club with an all-male membership was engaged in invidious discrimination."
A 153-year-old, 2000-member club located in a stately baroque revival building just off Fifth Avenue, the Century resisted opening its doors to women until a 1984 city statute barring private-club discrimination was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1988. Goodman joined it right after the passage of the city law targeting it.
A 1987 New York Times story reported that the exclusionary policy had become such a matter of controversy that some members resigned and others "refused nomination to the club." Columbia University, for example, announced that it would no longer rent the club's banquet hall or other facilities unless women were admitted. A petition to overturn the ban got widespread support from members as early as 1982, but the club did not admit its first women until December 1988, nearly four years after Goodman became a member.
An association initially aimed at "authors and artists," Century lists many prominent New York journalists as members, but the Times' Howell Raines and Joseph Lelyveld, for example, joined it after the gender ban was lifted, as did the Voice's David Schneiderman, The Nation's Victor Navasky, cartoonist Jules Feiffer, and 60 Minutes' Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, and Andy Rooney. Goodman is one of the few politicians admitted. New members must be nominated by current members; annual dues are approximately $2000 a year.
A Chicago Tribune story about the admission of women quoted one male member, who was recruiting women, as saying it was difficult: "Some people don't want to belong to a club that admits women because the Supreme Court says it must."
Another club Goodman belongs to, the Fort Orange Club, one block away from the State Capitol in Albany, also reversed its 108-year-old exclusionary policy in late 1988. An elegant hangout for Senate Majority Leader Warren Anderson and several other members of the Republican senate caucus, the Orange Club includes top lobbyists and other Albany insiders.
Records obtained by the Voice indicate that Goodman joined the club in 1975, six years after he began his Albany career and nearly a decade and a half before it admitted women. The Orange and Century clubs are secret societies, so neither would officially confirm what the Voice learned from yearbook listings.
In the mid '70s, a Democratic state senator, Karen Burstein, was leading a campaign in Albany to prevent legislative functions from taking place at the club because of its exclusionary policy. In 1980, Governor Hugh Carey issued an executive order forbidding state agencies from conducting any business at any club that excluded women. The ban covered two Albany clubs, but the other changed its policies by 1983, long before Orange did.
In addition to joining these private clubs, Goodman, a millionaire who inherited the Ex-Lax fortune, has dipped repeatedly into his two campaign committees' funds to cover tens of thousands of dollars in costs associated with his membership. The Manhattan Republican Party, which he chairs, pays his membership dues at the Orange Club, though it is about 150 miles away from Manhattan. The filing for 1999 lists $1363 in disbursements to the club and identifies most as for "dues and subscriptions," while the 1998 filing includes several periodic payments of the same size but describes the purposes as "meetings and events." The tally for early 2000 was down to $484.
The same party committee has also paid $7276 to the Century Club since 1998, while Goodman's senate campaign committee has paid it $30,899 since 1996. Some of this is specifically attributed to dues, some to meetings, and the bulk to an annual Christmas party that Goodman throws at the club for friends and supporters. While a list of invitees to the annual holiday cocktail event obtained by the Voice starts with the "personal friends" in his "Christmas card boxes," Goodman spends campaign money to entertain them.
Goodman also uses his two committees to pay his dues and other costs at the Century Country Club in Purchase, New York, where he has a summer home. The country club is not connected with the Century in Manhattan, though it, too, discriminated against women until the early '90s, when it finally allowed the wives of members to cast half the family's vote. Identified by The Washington Post in 1991 as an "exclusive German-Jewish institution," a country club official said five years later that it had opened its doors to others and was "between 10 to 20 percent non-Jewish." The Voice could not determine when Goodman joined the country club, which changed its practices as a result of the federal court decision and new state laws. Goodman's spent $13,348 from the committees at the upstate club since 1998, including identical expenditures totaling $4270 on the same two days in 1998 and 1999 from each committee, a strange coincidence.