Best of a bad bunch
Saturday, September 6th 2008, 4:00 AM
Here's a question for you: Would you spend $270,000 of your own money on a campaign for a judgeship that pays $136,700?
No, you wouldn't.
And would you borrow an additional $225,000 for the same campaign, bringing your total potential outlay to half a million dollars, approaching four times the salary?
But that is what Manhattan lawyer Nora Anderson is doing in a series of financial transactions that should disqualify her as surrogate judge, a powerful post that hands out millions in patronage assignments to connected lawyers and accountants.
Anderson's campaign finances shout conflict of interest and raise an odor. She works for trusts and estates kingpin lawyer Seth Rubenstein, who gave her the $225,000 loan, on top of a $25,000 donation. His son is also a top trusts and estates lawyer.
Further, she is on the verge of violating the law. Her own campaign consultant says she will not repay the loan by Tuesday's primary. Yet state election law clearly states that all loans not fully repaid by the primary become donations - putting her gift from Rubenstein at seven times the legal limit.
Voters should reject her because if she wins, this will be a clear case for the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, which would have the power to remove her from office.
The other two candidates are lawyer John Reddy and Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling. Reddy is an insider with three decades in Surrogate Court, who like Anderson raised an unseemly amount of money. His cash came from numerous lawyers with interests before the court, putting him a cut above Anderson.
Tingling is backed by the Harlem Democratic clubhouse, which is a drawback, but at least he hasn't gone overboard in collecting money. In a weak field, go with Tingling.
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In the race for Manhattan Surrogate, Citizens Union evaluated both Reddy and Nora Anderson. It did not meet with Milton Tingling, the third candidate. In choosing Reddy, CU was impressed by his knowledge of the Surrogate's Court and the proceedings it handles. His plan to reform the Surrogate's Court showed an admirable thoughtfulness that earned our support for his election