ALBANY – The Seneca Nation of Indians, embroiled in its own political battles over who will lead the tribe as president the next two years, is jumping in at the end of the state legislative races with a $25,000 check to Assembly Democrats.
The donation comes on top of $100,000 the tribe gave two weeks ago to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, joining efforts by some other special interests with business before the state that are trying to keep the GOP in charge of the State Senate.
In all, the Seneca Nation has unleashed $350,000 to various political causes in New York in the past 22 months.
The newest Seneca donation, reported Thursday afternoon in what are known as the 24-hour notice filings required in the last weeks leading up to Election Day, went to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee, a political group that hardly needs last-minute help, given the huge majority Democrats hold over Republicans in the 150-member house.
But the Assembly Democrats are going to be one of three players – along with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and whichever party is running the Senate come September – to decide where up to seven proposed Las Vegas-style casinos might be located in New York state.
If there is to be a major casino expansion, as Cuomo envisions, to permit seven full-blown casinos with gambling, such as table games, now not permitted on non-Indian lands, the Legislature, and then voters statewide, will have to approve the idea next year. A first passage of the constitutional amendment went through the Legislature earlier this year.
The Seneca Nation is driving hard to keep any further competition, beyond existing racetrack-based racino operators, from coming into its gambling large exclusivity zone in Western New York. The tribe already has withheld nearly $500 million in revenue-sharing payments to New York, arguing its exclusivity arrangement was breached by the state with new forms of gambling, including at the area’s tracks.
The Seneca Nation did not have an immediate comment on the contributions.
In other 24-hour disclosure filings Thursday – all campaigns must now publicly release to the state Elections Board any donation over $1,000 up until Election Day – the Faculty Federation of Erie Community College gave Democrat Mike Amodeo $9,300 for his run against Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti of Buffalo. The college faculty group is a local union of the New York State United Teachers union, which earlier this week reported pumping $100,000 into Amodeo’s bid against Grisanti.
The race has unions working against each other. Local 1199, a health care workers union that, like NYSUT, is one of Albany’s most potent political operations, gave $6,000 to Grisanti Wednesday, according to the Elections Board.
Other big donations this week include $25,000 by Time Warner Cable, which always has business before the Legislature, to the Assembly Democrats. The New York State Republican Campaign Committee donated $63,650 to Sean Hanna, a Rochester-area Republican Assemblyman who is running for the State Senate to try to help the GOP retain control of the chamber.
Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, a Kenmore Democrat, opened up his own campaign wallet to give $25,000 to the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee, which is, ultimately, controlled by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. It is Silver who will be picking a new majority leader before January to run the Assembly floor operations.
Meanwhile, Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino, who lost the 2010 governor’s race to Cuomo, gave $2,664 to Joseph Hayon, a conservative Republican from Brooklyn running an uphill race against longtime Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein.