Dear Campaign Finance Board:
Pursuant to NYC Administrative Code 3-705(7) (c), I hereby attest to
Seabrook 2005′s need for additional public funds for the 2005 general election in District 12.
My general-election opponent is not a participant in the Campaign Finance
Program. He runs with a base of support from CoOp City. Moreover, he is conducting an active campaign
as the nominee of both the Republican and Conservative parties, and has the backing of Mayor Bloomberg’s
high-spending mayoral re-election campaign.”
Larry Seabrook, September 23, 2005
Mike Bloomberg is a “strong, decisive leader” who “has delivered
for the Bronx and the entire city.”
—Larry Seabrook, October 30, 2005
Bronx Councilmanic Larry Seabrook didn’t just want your vote this year.
He wanted your money. Seabrook got $71,000 in matching funds—that’s money from taxpayers
given to candidates to run for office—against a challenger who didn’t raise or spend a single
And it’s all legal.
In 2000, Seabrook’s bid to oust a six-term Congressman imploded, but
left him in good enough standing to win a City Council seat in that north Bronx neighborhood. He had,
at that point, represented the area in the Assembly and the Senate for years, and his work hadn’t
gone unnoticed. The Daily News once said, “If ever there was a gold medal in the war against
drugs, Assemblyman Larry Seabrook should be considered.”
Imagine the cojones somebody would need to run against Larry Seabrook.
Boulder-sized, to say the least. Massive.
George Rubin certainly lets it all hang out.
“No, I didn’t think I could win,” said Rubin Tuesday night from his apartment
on tough, gritty De Kuif Place. “This community is hard left.”
Rubin, in case you couldn’t tell, is the fearsome opponent described
in Seabrook’s letter to the Campaign Finance Board, reprinted in its entirety above.
That “active campaign” included stops “at train stops, bus stops, in
lobbies of buildings and meeting people on the street,” Rubin told me. “That’s how I campaigned.
I went out at least ten times.”
Not bad for a retired 76-year-old guy.
So with a campaign team of one, Rubin sought out the Fort Knox of campaign
dough: Mike Bloomberg’s Scrooge McDuck–style money vault. What Republican wouldn’t?
But don’t expect the usual groveling from Rubin. He’s too old and proud for that.
“I didn’t actively pursue their support, because [Bloomberg's campaign]
should have offered their support to me,” Rubin said.
But at least Rubin communicated with the best political minds Bloomberg’s
team had onboard. “No. Nope.” At least one conversation? “No. They didn’t offer me any help whatsoever.”
Okay. Got it.
Remember, Seabrook so helpfully explained, Rubin already started
with “with a base of support from CoOp City.” Seabrook, after all, should know. He lives there.
Rubin’s base in CoOp City? One of his three children lives there. (Another
lives in Westchester—no doubt organizing the absentee ballot operation—and one
still lives with Rubin and his wife in their three-bedroom apartment.)
So with an impressive street team and Bloomberg’s fortune pouring in,
all Rubin needed was an aggressive outreach program. And who wouldn’t listen to a tall, grandfatherly
old man with blue eyes?
“I just don’t discuss politics with people here. I just keep my relationships
strictly friendly, noncontroversial,” he said. That’s because, well, who can a Conservative
Republican talk to in the north Bronx? As Rubin said, his base there is “miniscule” and “very, very
small.” How small is it?
According to city records, the councilmanic district has 4,537 Republicans
and 284 Conservatives, as compared to 72,038 Democrats. You go, Rubin.
With all the stars lined up in Rubin’s favor, it’s obvious why Seabrook
needed not just the $39,967 he raised, but the $71,000 in matching funds. Rubin needed to be destroyed.
That letter allowed Seabrook to collect taxpayer dollars to run his
re-election campaign, even though he had raised tens of thousands of dollars, and Rubin hadn’t
bothered to lift a finger.
The Campaign Finance Board, which only has the power to verify the signature
on Statements of Need—and not actually verify the actual need in the statement—gave
Seabrook $66,405 on September 29, $95 on October 14 and $4,500 on November 3—all to ward off
Rubin. And $43,252 went to Oliver Seabrook, fundraiser/petition-gatherer/consultant/campaign-treasurer
extraordinaire. (Yes, there’s a relation.)
George Artz, a political consultant not working with either candidate,
called the Seabrook episode a “loophole,” but said it’s hard to get rid of. Just like Seabrook.
“Most of the people involved in these cases are incumbents, but someone
has to sit in judgment [and decide] whether matching funds were warranted,” said Artz.
“I think it’s very difficult to do, to determine whether or not an election
threat is a real threat or not.” Truly an impossible task for a city already trying to do more with
CFB officials have made recommendations to close such loopholes. In
2003, they reduced the amount of funds a candidate who is facing “nominal opposition” could receive,
from $4 per $1 raised to $20,625, or 25 percent of the maximum they would normally give to a candidate.
The one way a candidate could get around that cap? Filing a Statement of Need.