State’s biggest G.O.P. donors migrated to Cuomo

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Cuomo. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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ALBANY—More than half the 50 top donors to the state’s Republican party between 2003 and 2006 have given more to Cuomo and the Democrats this campaign cycle than they have to the G.O.P. and Rob Astorino, an analysis by NYPIRG’s Bill Mahoney shows.

Of the 50 donors who gave the most to the G.O.P. in the runup to the 2006 gubernatorial election—when Democrat Eliot Spitzer became governor after three terms of Republican George Pataki—28 have given $5.5 million to Cuomo and the Democrats for the 2014 campaigns, contributing just $435,000 to Astorino and the Republicans during the same time period. Another 19 stopped giving to any candidates, and three gave more money to Astorino and the Republicans, according to the analysis.

The finding is another illustration of how Cuomo has been able to box out Astorino’s potential donor base by appealing to the wealthiest New Yorkers on both sides of the aisle. It also shows how effectively the governor has created an air of inevitability around his re-election, as powerful donors continued to give to the candidate with the greatest chance of holding the office after November.

Some donors who once gave heavily to Republicans and are now giving more to Cuomo and the Democrats include major real estate interests like Brookfield Financial Properties L.P., the Durst Organization and Peter Kalikow, head of the real estate firm Kalikow & Company, LLC.

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Brookfield gave a combined $210,000 to the G.O.P. between 2003 and 2006. But in recent years, the company has been far more generous to Cuomo and the Democrats, giving $813,500 between 2011 and 2014 the analysis show.

Durst gave $182,500 to the G.O.P. between 2003 and 2006, and gave $304,000 to Cuomo and the Democrats in recent years.

Nineteen of the biggest donors to the G.O.P. in the early part of the decade gave nothing to members of either party in recent years, the analysis showed.

Once one of the Senate Republicans' biggest donors, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has given nothing in the most recent cycle to help candidates of either party.

Susan Kadish, the wife of prominent conservative Lawrence Kadish, gave $100,000 to the Republicans between 2003 and 2006, and has given nothing to Astorino, the G.O.P., Cuomo or the Democrats since then.

Alexander Treadwell, a former New York-based R.N.C. committeeman, gave $202,000 to the G.O.P. between 2003 and 2006, but has since moved to California.

Real estate developer Melvyn Kaufman, who once gave heavily to Republicans, died in 2012.

The migration of donors also shows the fund-raising appeal of Cuomo’s political approach, which combines fiscal conservatism with progressive positions on social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion. He’s come under regular fire in his first term from Democrats who claim he’s out of step with his own party for his positions on labor issues, support for charter schools and coziness with wealthy real estate developers and financial firms.

Cuomo counts G.O.P. megadonor and Home Depot Founder Ken Langone as a vocal supporter, and he’s developed a mutually deferential relationship with New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who has declined to endorse or campaign for Astorino, despite heading up the Republican Governors Association.

Astorino’s campaign attributed Cuomo’s fund-raising advantage with wealthier Republican donors to Albany’s “pay-to-play” culture.

“Sadly that's the way New York State government works,” Astorino campaign spokeswoman Jessica Proud said in an emailed statement. “There's a constant shakedown of business leaders from those in charge of the status quo in Albany.”