Mystery Money Swells G.O.P. Fund

Helicopter riders from south of the highway
Durell Godfrey

On the eve of an important local election, the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee and its candidates held a fund-raising edge over the Republicans. This was despite almost $75,000 in late donations to the East Hampton Town Republican Committee from a mystery group linked to the town airport.

According to reports filed with the New York Board of Elections, the Republican committee brought in just over $52,000 between Oct. 3 and 23, nearly all of it from a single source. The top-dollar donor was the same contributor that gave the committee $24,970 in September, GNYG, a limited-liability company with a Midtown Manhattan office building address. It donated $25,000 to the Republican committee on Oct. 10 and $24,940 on Oct. 16.

Richard Gherardi, the Republican committee treasurer, said in an interview that GNYG was a number of East Hampton homeowners who use helicopter services at East Hampton Airport. 

“They are several people from south of the highway, Lily Pond Lane and Further Lane, who have gotten together because they are unhappy with the way the town has been being managed,” he said. 

The anonymous donors are not owners of any of the helicopter companies or aviation interests that pumped more than $275,000 to the town Republicans in 2015, Mr. Gherardi said. “They do take helicopters out here,” he said.

The almost $75,000 GNYG was reported as giving to the committee since the beginning of August accounted for more than two-thirds of its total income and half of all money raised by all Republicans in East Hampton Town this year.

GNYG’s Manhattan address is in the same building as offices of Fox News and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., among many other businesses.

The individuals behind GNYG could not be precisely identified; it is a Delaware-registered limited liability company.

In campaign materials and public statements, the Republican town board candidates have expressed support for fewer restrictions at East Hampton Airport. 

“These individuals have every right to put their money into organizations that they believe in. We are unsurprised by this,” said Kathleen Cunningham, the chairwoman of the Quiet Skies Coalition, an East Hampton advocacy group concerned with aircraft noise. 

The political action committee of the Quiet Skies Coalition, Q.S.C. PAC, filed reports with the board of elections on Monday, two days after a Friday deadline, indicating that it had received about $14,000 in donations. 

On Wednesday, Quiet Skies announced its endorsements of three East Hampton Democrats, Peter Van Scoyoc for town supervisor and Kathee Burke-Gonzalez and Jeff Bragman for town board.

Amos Goodman, an East Hampton Republican activist, said on Monday that he had filed a complaint with the state board of elections alleging problems with the Quiet Skies PAC’s late disclosure. Several of its contributions should have actually been declared in an earlier filing round but none were reported, he said. Mr. Goodman ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Suffolk Legislature two years ago.

Mr. Goodman also told the board of elections that the Quiet Skies Coalition’s chairwoman, Ms. Cunningham, who is also a member of the town planning board, could be violating the spirit of a state law barring policy makers from managing political committees. Pat Trunzo, an East Hampton building contractor, is the Quiet Skies PAC treasurer, Ms. Cunningham said.

In his own letter, Donald Cirillo, a former East Hampton Republican Committee treasurer, made similar allegations about the Quiet Skies report to the board of elections.

When she was appointed to the planning board in 2015, Ms. Cunningham said, she asked the town attorney if her role with the Quiet Skies Coalition and as the director of the Village Preservation Society would present a conflict. She said that she was told it would not.

“No one has asked me to recuse myself,” she said. “I feel that I can be fair when those matters come up.” 

“They don’t have enough substance in their general theme, so they have to hit me personally,” Ms. Cunningham said.

She said that the anonymous donors to the town Republican Committee, if they did indeed use helicopters to get to and from East Hampton, may actually be acting against their own interests, as calls to close the airport continue to mount in the absence of measures to address excessive aircraft noise. “I think they are at cross-purposes. I don’t think they have thought this through,” she said.

Among Democratic fund-raising groups, donations totaled more than $65,000 since Oct. 3, according to reports filed with the board of elections, bringing the year’s total so far to just over $166,000.

Campaign 2017, the Democrats’ main fund-raising arm, took in just over $47,000 in that period. The town Democratic Committee reported $13,450 in contributions during the same period. Thomas Ogden of Wainscott was the top donor to the various Democratic funds, providing $9,000.

Donations to the several Republican campaign committees added up to about $55,000, raising their total income to a bit over $150,000.

Paul Giardina, running for East Hampton Town Board, was listed as loaning his campaign committee $1,000 on Oct. 23.