Living the Political Life Fantastic

Surf, turf, and doughnuts: A state senator dines out on his campaign war chest

The senator said he was in Great Neck to meet with a campaign contributor who lives in nearby exclusive Sands Point. "I have a couple people out there who have been significant contributors," he said. This gets to the heart of why his restaurant tab might seem large, the lawmaker explained. Unlike other pols, Kruger doesn't have his contributors come to big fancy fundraisers. Instead, he goes to them. "This is the only way I have to communicate with my supporters, contributors, and political people," he said. "I use these small, intimate one-on-ones." The get-togethers, he said, provide input "about politics and the kinds of things I am doing or should be doing."

Presumably, these sessions helped flesh out some of the senator's recent legislative initiatives, including one that drew national attention last year when he proposed to outlaw listening to iPods and cell phones while crossing the street.

Still, the care and feeding of campaign supporters can be expensive. When one valued donor passed away in Florida, Kruger paid $434 to have Boston Market send over food to the family. In July, he forked over $500 at a golf shop to buy a gift card for a "major supporter's" birthday party. "He is an avid golfer," said Kruger.

Less clear is the final destination of $11,000 of campaign funds that are listed simply as "unitemized." Kruger said that he didn't have documentation at hand, but that it was a safe bet that it consisted mostly of breakfasts and doughnuts for his staff. "We bring the staff up; we do Dunkin' Donuts," he suggested.

His filings contain a few other odds and ends, such as the $315 monthly insurance for his 2008 Cadillac, and the $600 spent last January for a new GPS device. There was also the time last summer when he drove down to Washington to catch a performance at the Kennedy Center. On the way back, he and an associate whom he declined to identify ("Someone from the neighborhood—a contributor") stopped off in Maryland to grab a quick bite at a Ruby Tuesdays ($62). There was a Home Depot next-door, and he popped inside to buy $79 worth of merchandise. "I have to scavenge around for the office," he said. "Might need a toolset or something."

Bottom line, the senator explained, is that his mighty war chest is used exactly as intended: "To advance my political goals."

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