Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Judge's Funny Money

Daily News Editorial, September 23, 2008

The evidence has grown stronger that incoming Manhattan Surrogate Judge Nora Anderson trampled on campaign finance laws as she bested two opponents in this month's big-money Democratic primary.

Anderson's latest financial disclosure filing became public Monday - and the report must now become required reading for investigators at the state Commission on Judicial Conduct. The document lays out in black and white Anderson's wholesale disregard for the law.
She and all other candidates were limited to accepting donations totaling no more than $35,000 from any individual for the primary. But Anderson, a trusts and estates lawyer, went way over the cap through a series of transactions with her boss, Seth Rubenstein.
Those include a $25,000 contribution and a $225,000 loan, whose balance, under the law, became a donation as of Primary Day. According to Anderson's filing, by that date she managed to repay $13,000.

The bottom line on the accounting: Anderson accepted a mere $202,000 more from Rubenstein than the law allowed - and spent it all in knocking off her rivals to wind up as the sole name on the ballot in November.

The day after the primary, according to her report, Anderson repaid an additional $9,100 to Rubenstein. A day late, that doesn't cure the violation. But even if you give her an unauthorized 24-hour grace period, she's still $192,900 over the limit.

The figures appear to contradict a Sept. 15 statement made to this Editorial Board by Anderson campaign manager Michael Oliva. "Nora paid off loan in full," he said in a text message. If so, there's a huge pile of money of unknown source that's unaccounted for in Anderson's campaign.
The amounts involved here - plus an additional $170,000 that Anderson "loaned" her own campaign - are understandable only when you consider the responsibilities of a surrogate judge. Those entail presiding over the estates of the dead - including the awarding of millions of dollars in assignments to lawyers and accountants.

As things stand, she'll be sworn in on Jan. 1.

As things stand, the state commission had better start investigating - pronto.

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