Local Assemblyman Dov Hikind is raising eyebrows with his campaign spending, with cash going to cover a new car lease, donations to powerful Jewish groups that have backed him, and a day camp tied to a rabbi under criminal investigation.
The New York Observer reported on Monday that Hikind used more than $800 from his campaign warchest to pay the lease on a new car.
Mr. Hikind, a Brooklyn lawmaker with a war chest of nearly $1 million, spent $815.60 at a Bay Ridge Nissan to renew the lease on a car that doesn’t appear to have a specific campaign function. He spent the money on July 1, according to his campaign filings.
“I use it for anything related to work,” Mr. Hikind told the Observer. “I don’t take it to Albany.”
“I don’t know why suddenly you’re asking about it now. It’s nothing new. It’s something I’ve been doing for the past number of years,” he added, not specifying how the car lease pertained to his re-election bid against a long-shot Republican.
Meanwhile, he’s also divvied up his nearly $1 million in campaign donations to groups who’ve supported him, according to today’s Daily News:
The beleaguered Borough Park lawmaker used more than $18,150 of his well-stocked campaign kitty for donations to yeshivas and powerful Jewish groups, including $2,400 for a scholarship at a day camp connected to a rabbi under criminal investigation.
… The giving is permitted under the state’s lax campaign rules but one government watchdog called Hikind’s largesse “very unusual.”
“The problem is there is no guidance for candidates or elected officials in terms of what is an appropriate campaign related use of campaign funds,” said Susan Lerner of Common Cause.
The yeshivas are run by a diverse group of Orthodox powerbrokers who have long supported the veteran lawmaker.
But Hikind insisted the payments were not an attempt to buy influence.
“It isn’t to help me get re-elected,” he said. “I have the money. When there’s a good cause and I can actually be helpful I use it.”
Orah Day Camp also received funds from Hikind’s trove, which he said went to pay attendance fees for a child from a needy family. But the News points out that the camp is tied to Rabbi Samuel Hiller, who was accused in May of steering $8 million from a taxpayer-funded nonprofit, using it to set up religious schools and camps, including Orah. He allegedly used the funds for personal expenses as well.
Hikind said he had “no idea” Hiller was connected to Orah.
The pol was also being investigated last year by Governor Cuomo’s Moreland Commission before it disbanded. The group was looking into $65,000 Maimonides Hospital paid to a company owned by Hikind’s advertising company, which the pol failed to disclose in his financial statements.