"There's nothing wrong with giving [to] charity," New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind told the Daily News. And Hikind would normally be right – except that those donations came from his campaign account and allegedly went to haredi organizations linked to Hikind cronies and, in one case, to a rabbi currently under criminal investigation for stealing millions of dollars of government money meant for young disabled children.
Above: Dov Hikind
Allegation: Dov Hikind Used Campaign Cash To ‘Donate” To Haredi Charities Controlled By His Political Cronies
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
"There's nothing wrong with giving [to] charity," New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind told the Daily News.
And Hikind would normally be right – except that those donations came from his campaign account and allegedly went to haredi organizations linked to Hikind cronies and, in one case, to a rabbi currently under criminal investigation for stealing millions of dollars of government money meant for young disabled children.
Hikind (D, Borough Park) used more than $18,000 from his almost $1 million campaign war chest to fund haredi yeshivas and other powerful haredi groups run by his political supporters – including giving a $2,400 day camp scholarship at Orah Day Camp in Far Rockaway, which he says paid for camp for a child from a large, poor family.
The camp is run by Rabbi Samuel Hiller, who was arrested in May for allegedly embezzling $8 million in government money from a nonprofit special education provider. The money was actually meant to help 3– to 5-year old disabled children. Instead, much of the money allegedly went to fund things like plumbing and other work on Hiller’s personal house and to fund haredi yeshivas, schools and camps.
Hikind told the Daily News he hadn’t realized Hiller ran the camp when he made that donation from his campaign kitty.
“That’s news to me,” Hikind said.
A politician can legally make charitable donations from his campaign funds because New York State – which is notoriously corrupt – hasn’t gotten around to tightening its campaign finance laws, largely because Hikind and his Albany colleagues have fought almost every attempt to do so.
"The problem is there is no guidance for candidates or elected officials in terms of what is an appropriate campaign related use of campaign funds," Susan Lerner of Common Cause told the Daily News, adding that Hikind’s use of campaign funds for charitable donations "very unusual."
Hikind, however, said those donations were not a nefarious attempt to buy influence or fund cronies.
"It isn't to help me get re-elected. I have the money. When there's a good cause and I can actually be helpful I use it,” he reportedly said.
Hikind is already under state – and, allegedly possibly federal – scrutiny for receiving undeclared payments from Maimonides Medical Center, which Hikind helps regulate and fund in his his position as a state assemblyman. The money was paid to an advertising company Hikind owns and should have been declared even under the state’s weak disclosure law, but Hikind failed to do it for close to a decade until Crain’s NY uncovered the payments and asked him about them.
Maimonides paid $65,000 to Hikind's ad company over the past year alone for advertising on Hikind’s weekly radio show on the Orthodox-haredi Talkline Radio Network owned by Zev Brenner.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo empaneled a commission to investigate corruption by elected officials but then disbanded it even though it was uncovering unethical and even illegal behavior.
Cuomo wanted to use that commission to position himself as an anti-corruption reformer in a possible 2016 run for national office.
He took much criticism for disbanding the commission and has not given an explanation for doing so that has seemed satisfactory to many observers who believe the reason Cuomo disbanded the commission is not that it had found no corruption, but that it had found a lot of it.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara acquired the Moreland Commission’s files and is reportedly using them to investigate the outside income of New York lawmakers and how New York legislators use of their campaign funds.
Hikind is rumored to be a major target of that investigation.