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Since then, Howell has been a generous campaign contributor and fundraiser for Thompson, who's now running for mayor as he finishes up two terms as comptroller. Howell and his family have donated $28,000 to Thompson since his first run for office in 2001. He's also solicited donations for Thompson, including from his former colleagues out at Old Westbury.
The two men also share a close mutual friend: Brooklyn lawyer Norman Levy is a quietly influential city lobbyist who was Thompson's chief fundraiser when he was assembling his initial war chest to run for comptroller in 2001. Levy operates largely below the radar, presumably because of his narrow escape back in 1973 when he was convicted of running a parking-tickets-fixing scam for politically wired drivers. The conviction was later overturned. At the time, Levy was a top political aide to Mayor John Lindsay, who had named him president of the city's Tax Commission. He stepped down from that post after his indictment and a state investigations report that found he had cut taxes for influential landlords, including a mob-tied property owner on Staten Island.
Levy and Howell have been business associates in several ventures, including a Philadelphia-based company that Howell formed called Pension Enhancement Consulting. The men are so in sync that they repeatedly manage to make hefty donations of the exact same amount on the same day to political committees across the country.
Although he's not a registered broker, sources say Levy has been active with Howell in helping line up pension investment deals with both state and city pension funds. Levy didn't want to talk about it, failing to return calls. When Thompson was asked if he thought Levy and Howell were partners, he issued a long, painful groan: "I don't know about partners," he finally said. "I know they know each other."
Meanwhile, the bright promise offered by the Emerald Fund has apparently yet to take hold. News accounts in Northern Ireland report that no local investments have been made to date. Thompson "would like to see the pace picked up," said a spokesperson.