Thursday, April 14, 2016
Several politicians have said they would return campaign contributions from a Manhattan businessman embroiled in a federal probe into police corruption.
But Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who got $15,000 from Jona Rechnitz's JSR Capital in June 2013, is not among them.
"We did absolutely nothing wrong," Astorino's political spokesman William O'Reilly told The Journal News. "There's no reason to return the donations."
The contributions to Astorino came the same month that Rechnitz's pal, Jeremy Reichberg of Brooklyn, was appointed a volunteer chaplain with the Westchester County Department of Public Safety. Also that month, Astorino got another $10,000 from two companies that shared a suite with Rechnitz in Manhattan's diamond district – companies with no record of any other campaign donations.
Reichberg was suspended as a chaplain last week when news broke about the federal probe. County officials have described it as a ceremonial post for which Reichberg derived no benefit. But they have declined to discuss how he came to be a chaplain or why someone from Brooklyn would be selected.
O'Reilly insisted there was no connection between Rechnitz's contributions and Reichberg's appointment.
The two men are at the center of the FBI probe into lavish gifts they may have offered New York City police officials in exchange for favors like police escorts for jewelry deliveries and funerals and crowd control at Hasidic events. Five NYPD commanders have been placed on modified duty or reassigned as a result of the probe.
The investigation has also brought scrutiny on Mayor Bill De Blasio's campaign fundraising. Rechnitz and his wife contributed the maximum $9,900 between them to the mayor's 2013 campaign. Rechnitz also got others to contribute another $40,000 to the campaign and donated $50,000 to DeBlasio's nonprofit Campaign for One New York.
Among those who contributed the maximum $4,950 to DeBlasio through Rechnitz were diamond dealers Paul Raps and Yaron Turgeman. Raps is the owner of Stephnat LLC, one of the two companies whose only New York political contribution was to Astorino in June 2013. The other, LTR Trading, is the former name of Taly Diamonds, Turgeman's company. Neither could be reached and employees at both companies have refused to comment about the contributions.
A company Rechnitz controlled, JSTD Madison, also contributed $102,300 to state Senate Democrats in their failed bid to win back the Senate in 2014.
Both Rechnitz and Reichberg, who hosted DeBlasio at his Borough Park home in May 2014, served on the mayor's inaugural committee with more than 70 other donors, celebrities and community leaders.
DeBlasio said last week that he would return the couple's $9,900 from the 2013 campaign.
Rechnitz and his wife live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, within state Senator Adriano Espaillat's district. The senator, who is running again for Congress this year after losing bids in 2012 and 2014, received $20,600 from Rechnitz and his wife in 2014 - $13,000 for his state campaign committee and $7,600 for his Congressional bid. The senator's campaign said last week he is returning the couple's money.
Another Democrat seeking the Congressional seat, Adam Clayton Powell IV, is also returning $2,600 that his campaign received from JSR Capital in 2013, his campaign manager told Capital New York.
The Rechnitzes also gave New York City Councilman Mark Levine $5,500 in 2014. He said he is returning the money to the couple "to avoid any hint of impropriety" and that he does not have a relationship with Rechnitz.
His district is further north of where the couple lives. But Levine is head of the council's Jewish caucus and the councilman and Jona Rechnitz made contact through the Museum of Tolerance New York, where Rechnitz is active.
Rechnitz's only other major contribution in the past three years was $4,100 to state Assemblyman Walter Mosley of Brooklyn, by far the largest donation Mosley received. Mosley declined to comment Thursday on whether he would return the contribution.
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