Pataki's Favorite Conservatives
Mike Long spends six days a week behind the counter of his family liquor store on 5th Avenue in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. The Conservative Party he's built into a statewide force is headquartered around the corner on 78th Street, a one-minute walk for this vigorous, 58-year-old ex-Marine who calls himself a pragmatic "revolutionary." Two blocks away is the modest rowhouse where Long has raised nine children.
As simple as his circle of life might be, the streetwise and unpretentious Long has quietly become the second most powerful political boss in New York, exceeded only by GOP giant Bill Powers.
Ever since George Pataki became the first governor elected on the 36-year-old Conservative line, Long has been pointing to the 328,605 votes his party delivered in 1994. He will remind anyone within earshot that his votes were the margin of victory over Mario Cuomo, a man Long once baited into a little-known, single-punch, losing fistfight. On October 27, Long will host a $250-a-head cocktail party at the Sheraton Centre, and the governor and Senator D'Amato--both of whom are posing as reelection moderates--will be there, luring thousands into the coffers of a party that is as pro-gun and pro-tobacco as it is anti-choice and anti-gay.
While Pataki woos the Times in search of its editorial embrace, his first term administration has been a hiring hall for Long's legions, with Conservatives prominently placed, at one time or another, at the Port Authority, City University, the School Construction Authority (SCA), the Housing Finance Agency (HFA), the Workers' Compensation Board, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), the State Mortgage Agency (SONYMA), and the Parole Board.
Scandal has often followed the party's patronage trail, the latest example occurring at the parole board. Two weeks ago, Sean McSherry, a longtime Conservative whose father Mike sat on the party's state advisory board until his death in 1997, was indicted as part of a federal probe of alleged parole trade-offs for Pataki campaign contributions. The McSherry family has made 50 contributions to the party since 1994, totaling $8258. In addition to maintaining a bungalow near Long's on Breezy Point, Mike McSherry owned the building at 523 Third Avenue in Manhattan, where Mike Long's two sons, James and Matthew, run a bar called Third and Long.
Sean McSherry was initially named to the 19-member board by Cuomo in 1989, as part of a deal with the Republican-controlled senate. Chris Mega, the state senator from Bay Ridge at the time who's close to Long, reportedly suggested McSherry. Another parole board member, Irene Platt from Manhattan, is a Republican, but so tied to the Conservatives that she and her husband have made 12 donations to the party in recent years, totaling $4000. Her husband probated the wills of both of McSherry's parents last year. Though Platt's term expired in 1995, she is still on the board.
Earlier this year, another scandal involving Conservatives hit the press when the negligence of a party-connected cabal at the SCA was linked to the accidental death of an Asian American teenager on a school job site. In addition, U.S. Attorney Zachary Carter is investigating the award of LIPA's $7.5 billion in bond underwriting, with Long allies at both ends of the deal--the largest in the nation's history.
A Voice review of the hundreds of thousands in contributions raised by Long since 1994, especially compared with the paltry sums that preceded Pataki's win, demonstrates the financial overlay between the party and the state government it helped put in place. Dollar after dollar comes from state vendors, especially those who do business with the agencies where Conservatives have landed:
Others in line at the party trough include Duty Free International, which opened a 5000-foot expansion at JFK and controls the highly competitive duty-free market at two authority airports and New Connecticut Limo, which has a permit to provide limousine service to all three authority airports. Marine Shipping Line and Continental Terminals on piers 5 and 7 in Brooklyn, as well as the Newark-based Lansdell Protective and Staten Island's Howland Hook Containerport, leased facilities from the authority at the time of their contributions. Howland, like American Stevedoring, also gets millions in operating subsidies from a variety of public sources, including the authority.
A supplier that services authority containerports, Phoenix Marine, also became a donor. While an executive for several related upstate railroad firms that gave to the party denied they did business with the authority, but The Virginian Pilot reported last year that the firms were part of a Canadian-led coalition of lines seeking "rail access to the Port of New York and New Jersey."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
A registered Republican, Lauder ran for mayor in 1989 on the Conservative line. Lauder also bankrolled the 1989 and 1993 efforts to get a term limits referendum on the city ballot, a campaign that was led by Conservative Party honchos Atanasio, Marrone, and Roth. John Buttarazzi, whose family has long been associated with the party, also worked on Lauder's term limits campaign. He is now the senior vice president for privatization at the Empire State Development Corporation.
Jerome Becker, who changed his registration to Conservative in November 1995, was an appointee on the HFA, SONYMA and other state development boards under Cuomo. He's been elevated to chair under Pataki and has become a frequent donor to the party, as well as friendly with Long. Atanasio's firm, Bear, has repeatedly acted as senior manager on bond offerings issued by these agencies.
Rob Ryan, who was Pataki's campaign manager in 1994 and is now an executive at Empire State, became active in the party during the Barry Farber mayoral campaign in 1977 and was brought into the Pataki inner circle by Long. Like Ryan and Atanasio, Tony Casale, who served until recently as the head of the State Liquor Authority, is a Republican with even stronger ties to the Conservatives. A periodic donor to Long's party, Casale's SLA selection in 1995 was seen in part as another Conservative appointment.
Research: Nicole White
Pay to play? Conservative Party Donors Who Do Business With the Port Authority Friends in high places Pataki Appointees With Links to Conservative Party Family Contributions 199498 *The Marrones resigned from the SCA this year. **This total includes donations from Caroline Quartararo, who shares the same address. With special reporting by David Shaftel and David Kihara
Conservative Party Donors Who Do Business With the Port Authority
Friends in high places Pataki Appointees With Links to Conservative Party Family Contributions 199498 *The Marrones resigned from the SCA this year. **This total includes donations from Caroline Quartararo, who shares the same address. With special reporting by David Shaftel and David Kihara
Pataki Appointees With Links to Conservative Party Family Contributions 199498 *The Marrones resigned from the SCA this year. **This total includes donations from Caroline Quartararo, who shares the same address. With special reporting by David Shaftel and David Kihara
*The Marrones resigned from the SCA this year. **This total includes donations from Caroline Quartararo, who shares the same address. With special reporting by David Shaftel and David Kihara
*The Marrones resigned from the SCA this year.
**This total includes donations from Caroline Quartararo, who shares the same address.
With special reporting by David Shaftel and David Kihara
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