In the days following the racially charged massacre in a Buffalo supermarket, New York Governor Kathy Hochul hauled in $1.19 million through campaign fundraising. Hochul is no stranger to shady fundraising practices, with some alleging “pay-to-play” political schemes and referring to her as “Kickback Kathy.”
Zach Williams, Bernadette Hogan; September 15, 2022
The racist massacre at a supermarket in Kathy Hochul’s hometown of Buffalo on May 14 did little to slow the governor’s furious campaign pace — she hauled in $1.19 million within days as she carved out time to focus on the primary, records and schedules show.
Hochul schedules shared with The Post show Hochul spent at least 14 hours between Monday, May 16, and May 19 on “private” tasks that appear to be fundraisers, donor calls and meetings focused on the largely non-competitive primary and Nov. 8 general election rather than the deadliest racist rampage in state history.
“Making fundraising calls after such a horrific mass shooting almost defies belief,” GOP political strategist William O’Reilly told The Post.
Accused mass killer Payton Gendron drove 200 miles from his Southern Tier home in Conklin, NY, to target shoppers at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, which he reportedly scoped out ahead of time. The avowed white supremacist is accused of opening fire with a Bushmaster XM rifle at the store, targeting black shoppers and employees because of their race.
He is currently incarcerated on federal terrorism charges after allegedly killing 10 people and injuring several more.
While Hochul canceled campaign events on the day of the Buffalo attack and the following three days, she made up for lost time by collecting 178 gifts of $1,000 or more in the following four days.
A total of 13 events appear in her schedule to be related to fundraising ahead of the June Democratic primary, where she had an overwhelming money advantage against opponents ahead of her landslide victory.
“Hochul haters will have a field day,” said political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. “Smart pols will say she is one tough woman pol — maybe with bad timing.”
The listed stops on the campaign trail included a visit to a Central Park West home that records show belongs to Janice Shorenstein, a nonprofit executive who gave her campaign $2,850 on May 24, and a subsequent “private” dinner at an uptown Italian eatery as her campaign pushed supporters to give online via multiple Facebook ads.
Then, hours after announcing a package of gun control bills in response to the shooting on May 18, Hochul appeared for another hush-hush event at the Midtown offices of the real estate firm Jack Resnick & Sons after its president, Jonathan Resnick, gave her campaign $50,000 earlier.
He reached the maximum contribution limit of $69,700 six days later by giving Hochul $19,700 more, records show.
Other suspected campaign events include additional stops at private residences, an appearance at the law firm of Herrick Feinstein LLP and a Zoom appearance that necessitated prep time from campaign aides, according to the schedule.
Asked for comment, Hochul spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays said: “This is an inaccurate representation of the Governor’s actual schedule and doesn’t even include publicly advised events like national television interviews.”
But Crampton-Hays did not deny that Hochul attended a baker’s dozen of events in the Big Apple after adding another taxpayer-funded flight to her growing flight logs on May 18 — hours after appearing alongside President Biden in Buffalo.
“In the immediate wake of the horrific mass shooting in Buffalo, Gov. Hochul canceled all campaign activity and went straight to the scene to coordinate with law enforcement, support local leaders, and comfort her grieving neighbors. In the days afterwards, the governor was laser-focused on delivering results to prevent a future tragedy and help her community heal,” Crampton-Hays said.
The Hochul revelations come as the Democratic incumbent faces withering criticism, including from her opponent, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rep. Lee Zeldin of Long island, over her fundraising practices since succeeding disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo in August 2021.
Much of that money has been provided by four- and five-figure contributions from people with business before the state, leading to allegations of pay-to-play politics, which Hochul denies — including $637 million in state payments for COVID-19 rapid tests that went to a company tied to $300,000 in contributions.
“‘Kickback Kathy’ is shameless and it should come as no surprise to anyone that she spends all her time extorting people and selling state government,” Republican state party chair Nick Langworthy said in a statement.
The Hochul campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Some longtime political hands say balancing government work with campaign activity is just part of the job of being governor, with her schedules showing her juggling meetings with listed topics as diverse as fighting anti-Semitism and meeting with the head of Goldman Sachs.
“She’s multitasking,” Democratic political consultant Camille Rivera said.
“Yes, she does have a big war chest. I don’t always agree with the people she’s getting money from. At the same time, she’s running to be the next governor of the state of New York,” Rivera added.
But some Buffalo residents give Hochul mixed marks when it comes to how she responded to the racist attack.
Local community activist Jalonda Hill, founder of the nonprofit Colored Girls Bike Too, said Hochul deserves credit for going to Buffalo and for a $50 million funding package that Hochul announced in June to fight poverty while helping East Side Buffalonians recovery from the tragedy.
But even there, Hill noted, red tape has slowed down much of that aid from reaching the people who truly need it, and Hill wondered how big of a difference people like Hochul might have made by now with a bit more focus on issues facing their community.
Said Hill: “I always find it very interesting how tons of money can be raised for certain things — but it takes a while for other things.”
Photo: J. Messerschmidt