2001-01-31 / Political Page

Pardons Fiasco Spoils Hillary’s Senate Launch

BY JOHN TOSCANO

U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, had hardly dropped her right arm after being sworn in a couple of days ago when she got caught up in several of the highly questionable pardons granted by her husband, President Bill Clinton, on his last day in office.

Senator Clinton appears to be tied into at least two of the pardons, or to have benefitted by them.

In one case, Hillary Clinton had received more than $190,000 in furniture and other gifts from Denise Rich. Rich donated to and raised millions of dollars for the president, who pardoned her ex-husband, Marc. She had appealed on Marc’s behalf to the president.

In another case, Clinton had pardoned four Hasidic Jews convicted of a $40 million federal swindle, mainly after appeals from a Hasidic group in Rockland County which voted almost unanimously for Mrs. Clinton in last November’s elections.

Both cases aroused the ire of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, and caused him to cancel two meetings with the Senator. When the furor over the pardons reached fever pitch last week, Mrs. Clinton also called off meetings with City Comptroller Alan Hevesi and Public Advocate Mark Green, two of four Democratic mayoral candidates.

In cancelling his meeting with the Senator, the mayor said he was very upset by the presidential pardons. "It’s not political," he stated. "I think what the president did is an absolute outrage."

Another critic of the Clintons’ actions, Chuck Lewis, head of the Center for Political Integrity, stated.

"I can’t think of a time when a U.S. President and First Lady have left in a more undistinguished and unbecoming way."

It could take Senator Clinton sometime, if ever, to erase the damage done in her first days in office.

ONORATO LOOKS AHEAD: Closing out his most recent newsletter to constituents, state Senator George Onorato (D–Astoria) says the legislature "accomplished much in 2000, and I hope that momentum carries us into 2001."

With tax filing time upon us, his reflection on one of last year’s successes warrants mention—some additional help for married couples filing joint state income tax returns.

"For years, I have proposed an end to the ‘Marriage Penalty’ in the state income tax code," Onorato writes. "Now I can report that it has been almost completely eliminated."

The penalty aspect of the tax is that those filing jointly get less of a reduction than if they were single and filing individually. But the legislature closed the gap.

Married couples this year will get a $14,600 standard deduction, up from $13,000. Individuals get a $15,000 standard deduction, $400 more than married couples, "so I will continue to fight for the remaining $400 in tax relief," Onorato promises.

Onorato notes that the Earned Income Tax Credit was expanded last year, providing a tax break for low-income families. Parents also got some assistance in paying for child care costs and finding college more affordable. Business taxes, such as those on energy and utilities, also were reduced.

For this year, Onorato says, he will continue his efforts "to hold HMOs accountable for their decisions to deny or delay coverage for treatment; put the brakes on unfunded state mandates that drive up local taxes, and enact a Women’s Health and Wellness Act to help women pay for mammograms, cervical cancer screenings and osteoporosis tests."

HEAPHY RUNNING: Sunnyside tenant and community activist Joe Heaphy threw his hat into the ring last week for the 26th Council District seat being vacated by City Councilmember Walter McCaffrey (D–Woodside).

Heaphy is the executive director of the New York State Tenants and Neighbors Coalition and heads up the organization’s efforts to preserve affordable housing. Living in Sunnyside with his wife, Anne, Heaphy is a member of the Sunnyside Community Gardens Association, the United Forties Civic Association and the 108th Precinct Community Council. He is a former member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, a program run by the Catholic Church that recruits young people into community service.

Heaphy graduated with honors from the State University of New York at Buffalo with a degree in political science and earned a masters degree from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. He’s 32 and besides his local activism, has worked in Washington as an advocate for the Americans With Disabilities Act and in Iowa organizing farmers to save their family farms from foreclosure.

FARRELL APPOINTS: Another candidate in the 26th Council District race, Matthew J. Farrell of Woodside, announced that he’s hired Laurence Lauffer, the former counsel to the city’s Campaign Finance Board (CFB), to assist him with campaign finance law compliance.

Farrell, 29, has been working for the past seven years as an aide to Councilmember Karen Koslowitz (D–Rego Park), rising to chief of staff. Previously he worked in former Manhattan Borough President Andrew Stein’s office.

"With my experience, the people of the 26th Council District will continue to have an effective leader for their community," Farrell stated.

Others in the 26th District Democratic field beside Heaphy and Farrell are Michael Kearney, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce president, and James Dillon and Pat O’Malley, both of whom have run for public office before.

AVELLA WANTS VOTER EDUCATION: "The 2001 city elections will be a milestone in the city’s history," 19th Council District candidate Tony Avella feels, "so it will be extremely important that everyone who is entitled to vote be able to do so properly and easily."

To help bring this about, Avella has suggested that the metropolitan area’s television and cable networks run public service announcements (PSAs) "to provide basic voter education for the upcoming elections." The PSAs could also remind the public of the importance of voting, he adds.

"A one-minute video on how to operate the voting machine would help to reduce mistakes, which can cost a person their vote, and speed up the process at the polling site," Avella stated. Avella has written to the networks to suggest they broadcast the PSAs.

Also seeking the 19th Council District Democratic nomination are Arthur Cheliotes, a municipal labor leader, and Jerry Iannece, Bayside civic leader. The district covers Bayside, Whitestone and College Point.


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