Colby Hamilton, Writer, WNYC News
Colby Hamilton is a general assignment reporter. He originally joined WNYC as a political blogger. He's a proud graduate of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
During the height of the Occupy movement last year, Albany protestors were frustrated by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s state unwillingness to extend the so-called millionaires tax. Signs started popping up at rallies and protests placing Cuomo on the side of the ultra-wealthy elites—“Governor 1%.”
The Governor ultimately dealt with the tax issue by overhauling the entire tax code (and in the process upping the rate on upper-income earners), but those 99-pecenters may have been on to something.
According to a breakdown of political donors done by Common Cause, between June 1, 2007 and December 21, 2011, hedge fund employees, founders and their families have given Cuomo more than $2.5 million in campaign donations. No other candidate has raised more money from hedge funds since 2005 than Andrew Cuomo.
While this represents just a fraction of the $45,700,749 in contributions reported by the Cuomo since 2007, the amount individuals and firms have given is significant, as are the political habits of some of the donors.
EnTrust Capital Partners led all firms in donations with $150,870 donated to the Governor’s campaign coffers. Most of that came from the firm’s managing partner Gregg Hymowitz and his wife Deborah, who together were also the biggest donor duo the Governor has.
Hymowitz’s firm came under scrutiny during the Alan Hevesi years, when the firm was donating to the former comptroller at the same time he invested millions of dollars of the state’s pension fund in the firm. At the time there was concern the then-Attorney General Cuomo had a conflict of interest in investigations that ultimately landed Hevesi in jail because EnTrust had managed both Cuomo and his campaign’s finances. Cuomo ultimately recused himself, and EnTrust ended up not being targeted in the investigations.
Some of the supporters also have viewpoints that line up with Cuomo’s. Eagle Capital Management managing partner Ravenel Boykin Curry IV, for example, has given Cuomo $37,800 and shares the Governor’s positive view of charter schools.
Then there are donors whose names appear at the top of many Democratic candidates fundraising lists. Marc Lasry, co-founder of Avenue Capital Group, is one such donor. Lasry and his wife tied for the largest single donations to Cuomo at $55,900.
How much of an influence these donors have over Cuomo is uncertain. But their ability to write checks for tens of thousands of dollars is one of the call to arms for groups like Common Cause in their push for the public funding of campaigns in New York.