NEW YORK – Billionaire Greek-American businessman John Catsimatidis, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination to run for Mayor, donated $50,000 to help Democrats try to take control of the State Senate – at the request of Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The New York Daily News reported that was part of a scheme developed by Democratic organizations to funnel money to key Senatorial candidates through their groups to circumvent laws putting a $10,300 cap on how much could be sent individually to those running for the office.
While Catsimatidis last year sought to win the New York Mayor’s office – and would have faced de Blasio had he won the GOP nomination – he told the News he felt compelled to donate to his ideological rivals because of his key business interests in the city.
“I just wanted to show an indication I was willing to work with” de Blasio, said Catsimatidis, who has been known to cross party lines before and is friends with former President Bill Clinton and his wife, emerging Presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Catsimatidis, who made his fortune in the grocery and real estate businesses as a self-made man, has a penchant for doing the unorthodox in politics. It wasn’t reported further why he donated money, even at de Blasio’s request, to help defeat members of his own party for control of the State Senate.
De Blasio is leading a coalition of unions and activists in the political campaign to give the Democrats more power over Catsimatidis’ party.
The News reported that as part of de Blasio’s drive to help Democrats retake the Senate, a key aide to the Mayor hit up a city developer for a suggested contribution of $50,000, as shown in an email obtained by newspaper.
The solicitation made the developer “feel uncomfortable” in part because he deals with the city on permitting and other land-use issues, a person who spoke with him said.
“He wasn’t sure how to play it because he has business with the city,” the source told the paper. “While he likes the mayor, he doesn’t feel the Senate Democrats are friendly to the real estate industry.”
It was not immediately clear if the developer, who did not wish to be identified, made the donation. His name is not listed among the donors whose contributions already have been reported to the state Board of Elections.
Sam Nagourney, Finance Director of de Blasio’s 2013 mayoral campaign, asked the unnamed developer for a donation in an email, which was obtained by The News.
“We are focusing on the four most winnable races at this point,” the email said, listing four Democrats battling for Senate seats upstate.