Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Judge Nora Anderson's Money Pit is Full of Ethical Violations

Tuesday, October 14th 2008, Daily New Editorial

By the time she is sworn in as a Manhattan surrogate judge Jan. 1, there may be no canon of judicial campaign finance ethics that Nora Anderson leaves unbroken.

First, Anderson, a trusts and estates lawyer, bankrolled her election in substantial part with a loan from her boss that amounted to an illegal $202,000 contribution on the day she won the Democratic primary last month.

Then, called on it by these quarters, Anderson made a $198,185 personal loan to her campaign treasury so it could refund the improper donation.

Earlier, she had loaned the campaign $170,000, putting her $368,185 in the hole.

(How Anderson can afford this is unclear, as she neglected to list her income on financial disclosure forms.)

Now, Anderson is soliciting contributions that would enable her campaign to give some or all of the $368,185 back to her. Bad move. That puts her in violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of an ethics rule forbidding successful judicial candidates from raising money if they intend to use the proceeds to repay campaign debts to themselves.

The ban is intended to prevent soon-to-be judges from putting the arm on lawyers for money that will wind up in judicial pockets. The prohibition applies once an individual has been elected.

Anderson has no opposition on the Nov. 4 ballot. Her primary win was tantamount to election.

Her campaign stated as much unequivocally on the invitation sent out for a fund-raiser last Monday at Lattanzi, a restaurant on W. 46th St.

"She will be sworn in as our next Surrogate in January," said the appeal for donations ranging from $1,000 to $29,700. And the invitation was explicit as to why Anderson wanted the money: "Celebrate with her and help us retire the debt."

We dropped by, hoping for a word with Anderson, who has declined to return phone calls. We found an open bar, appetizers, chocolate-covered strawberries and a small gathering of lawyers who gave checks to Anderson's campaign treasurer. Someone called her "Judge." Someone jokingly told her, "See you in court."

The boss at Anderson's law firm, Seth Rubenstein, said, "I have nothing to say to the Daily News," before he left the party to get into his Jaguar convertible.

Anderson moved around the room, exclaiming: "I can't believe you crashed my party!" She stood in a corner before someone hailed a cab and she ran for it. We couldn't keep up. But the state Commission on Judicial Conduct and the Manhattan district attorney can.

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