Less than two months before the primaries, the state’s top election enforcement officer demanded former Independent Democratic Conference members to refund excessive contributions that surmount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The IDC, which consisted of eight Democratic state senators in alliance with Republicans before its disbandment in April, set up a Senate Independence Campaign Committee fund to support members in their races.
Two Queens officials with ties to the former alliance, State Senator Jose Peralta (D-Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Woodside) and State Senator Tony Avella (D-College Point, Whitestone, Bayside, Flushing, Jamaica Estates, Fresh Meadows, Bellerose, Floral Park, Jamaica, Douglaston, Little Neck, Auburndale, Kissena Park, Briarwood), reported receiving contributions from the SICC in their latest financial disclosure filing for the campaign season.
Risa Sugarman, the Chief Enforcement Counsel for the state Board of Elections, demanded the refund seven weeks after a state Supreme Court ruled the SICC and the associated housekeeping account as illegal, ruling the IDC as an unconstitutional party committee under election law.
The letter states the IDC Campaign Committee filed false campaign finance statements and condemned the committee for evading contributions.
“The IDC Campaign Committee utilized the Senate Independence Campaign Committee as a pass-through for the purpose of giving IDC candidates contributions far in excess of their contributions exceeded the contribution receipt limit for a party committee,” wrote Carla V. DiMarco, the Associate Counsel for the State Board of Elections.
Lawrence A. Mandelker, the attorney for the former IDC members and the Independence Party, responded to Sugarman’s letter stating this demand goes beyond the judgment of the court.
He accused Sugarman of strategically sending the letter during a “hotly contested primary election season and releasing it to the public at a time when the need to protect the Independence Party’s political speech is highest.”
One challenger in the primary election, Jessica Ramos, attacked Peralta and his campaign for accepting such money from the SICC fund.
“Jose Peralta has tried to scam our community for the last time,” said Ramos. “First, Peralta lied to us when he empowered Republicans but called himself a Democrat. Then, he tried to scam his way into another term by funding his campaign with illegal cash. Enough is enough.”
A spokesperson for Peralta did not respond by press time.