N.Y. Republicans who backed gay marriage see coffers, criticism soar
July 15th, 2011
09:37 PM ET
12 years ago

N.Y. Republicans who backed gay marriage see coffers, criticism soar

New York (CNN) – Republicans in New York's state Senate who crossed party lines to legalize gay marriage in the state have seen sharp increases in their campaign coffers, leading conservative activists to allege their votes were bought.

State Sen. Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, for instance, amassed just $30,000 from May 1 to June 24, the day same-sex marriage was approved. But in the two-and-a-half weeks after his vote, Grisanti reported receiving $73,000 in contributions – including huge donations from high-profile gay rights supporters like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Tim Gill, who is based in Colorado.

For State Sen. Roy McDonald, whose districts include Rensselaer and Saratoga counties, the weeks following his vote proved even more lucrative. After receiving $31,000 in the two months preceding the vote, McDonald garnered approximately $90,000 in just 17 days, more than doubling his total haul for all of 2011, according to Bill Mahoney, legislative operations and research coordinator for the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Three of the four Republican supporters of gay marriage denied multiple requests for comment on the spikes. But conservatives were quick to decry the flood of donations.

"They consistently and adamantly said they were opposed to same-sex marriage," said the Rev. Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms. "But after some meetings with major financial backers their position flipped, and they're now raking in tens of thousands of dollars."

Michael Long, chairman of the New York State Conservative Party, likewise alleged that the Republicans voted for gay marriage "because of the largesse of money now flying through their accounts."

State Sen. Ruben Diaz, the lone Democrat to oppose the bill, also questioned the senators' motives and called for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to launch an investigation.

Yet State Sen. James Alesi, who represents areas around Rochester and is one of the four Republicans, vehemently contested such accusations.

He contends that political contributions never influence his votes. He claims that - despite voting against the bill - he wanted to back marriage equality when it was proposed in 2009.

"No matter what contributions I've ever had from anybody, and they come from many points of the political compass, they don't influence my vote," Alesi said. "Conservatives would like to assert that because they're filled with hatred over this; they're filled with revenge and they'll say anything."

Alesi posted dramatic leaps in campaign finance funds. The donations received by the fourth Republican, State Sen. Steve Saland, had not been disclosed as of late Friday.

Whatever is in their campaign accounts, some right-wing Republicans vowed that the senators would pay for their votes at the ballot box.

"We understand that the gay money, particularly in New York, is a bit overwhelming; however, the base of the Republican Party is going to have something to say," said Connie Mackey, president of the political action committee for the Family Research Council, a coalition of Christian conservatives.

"The people of New York will de-elect those who didn't stand on principle."

The fact these senators are being threatened with primary challenges, due to their vote on one issue, raises a broader question: How open are Republicans to divergent views?

Alesi said the GOP would make a grave mistake by setting up primaries for one's vote on the gay marriage issues alone. And Gregory Angelo, chairman of the pro-gay rights group Log Cabin Republicans, said the party should be more inclusive, not less.

"Those who are calling for the purging of (these) Republicans from the party are certainly going to end up on the wrong side of history," said Angelo. "We should move forward as a party."

Like Angelo, members of several gay marriage advocacy groups said public support, not campaign contributions, proved the key rationale behind the senators' votes.

Kevin Nix, director of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said opponents of marriage equality were "trying to tarnish the courageous position" of the senators.

"How is doing what the majority of the people want you to do any less than democracy in action? It would be different if we were talking about an issue that enjoyed only a sliver of support; that's clearly not the case," said Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda advocacy group.

Thomas Duane, a gay state senator, is happy the vote turned out as it did, culminating with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signing it into law. But even he said it's possible money may have played a role influencing the political process.

"Whether it's LGBT money or business council money or the gas industry, there's too much hard money and too much soft money being distributed - and that needs to be reformed," Duane said.

But in this case, the Manhattan Democrat, said he thinks the politicians ultimately voted what they believed, not what would benefit them most financially.

"I think that votes on matters of conscience are not based on campaign contributions, but are based on feelings of the heart," Duane said. "I would like to believe that."

Filed under: Fundraising • New York • Same-sex marriage
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. GOP = Greed Over People

    How, exactly, is this different from when the tea baggers went RVing and swooped in and filled the coffers of the likes of that moronette Christine Whoever on any other tea bagging candidate?

    Wait, I see, when the GOP does it, it is called "lobbying" when the Dems do it, it is called "buying a vote".

    I think I am clear on the difference now.

    July 15, 2011 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  2. Mike Dallas

    "Whether it's LGBT money or business council money or the gas industry, there's too much hard money and too much soft money being distributed – and that needs to be reformed," Duane said."

    The Supreme Court has already ruled that reform will not happen in our life time, in fact, it took a step backwards, when the Supreme Court ruled companies were "people".

    Try to keep up.

    July 15, 2011 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  3. terry,va

    Keep your money and the gays. But I guess this isn't any worse than any other politician that isn't any better than a prostitute.

    July 15, 2011 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  4. NFL1

    If my Republican representative had been brave enough to do the right thing, I know this gay friendly Ithaca area would be rewarding him with donations...but unfortunately he ignored the constituents in portions of his district.

    July 15, 2011 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  5. sqeptiq

    The Tea Party is inclusive; they include everyone who agrees with them on everything IN and everyone who disagrees with them on anything OUT.

    July 15, 2011 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  6. Liz the First

    Wow! people find their consciences and vote for people's basic human rights, and the knuckle-draggers accuse them of being bought. they're probbly scared these newly humanized republicans might start voting for other things that might actually be good and decent. oh, the horror! i applaud the republicans who had the courage to break with their party's mindless hatred of all that's not white, christian, and heterosexual. instead of condemning them, the hardliners should learn from them. maybe they could find their hearts, too, not to mention their brains.

    July 15, 2011 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  7. LouAz

    Interesting how the SCOTUS United (or was it Union) decision can work. It is no longer one man (or woman) one vote.
    It is now one man one dollar or one man two dollars or one man three . . . ad infinitum. Best politicans money can buy !

    July 15, 2011 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  8. ruemorgue

    Let's see, politicians can be bought? Wow, what a surprise. Idiot article.

    July 15, 2011 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  9. Ken in NC

    Republicans are caught eating their own. It's OK for them ot pass legislation with pork or earmarks that will benefit their Big Oil supporter and then they get additional contributions from the Oil Industry but there is something wrong for them to pick up additional LGBT cash after a vote that benefited the LGBT community.

    July 16, 2011 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  10. LNB

    You bigoted barbarians who oppose LGBT civil rights~ People are voting their hearts and minds; and the rest will follow. Gay money is gonna come in big and hard. Christian coalitions are filled with exclusion, hate and revenge....two very Christian attributes. And Gay money is gonna reign down on you from here to kingdom come.

    July 16, 2011 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  11. peace

    a change is coming and the gop party is falling apart. obama 2012

    July 16, 2011 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  12. John in Brooklyn

    Hmmm....when Conservatives donate to candidates who serve their interests, they call it a "grass roots movement", but when Liberals reward candidates who have voted for their civil liberties, Conservatives call it "bought votes". Clearly the national level republicans are out of touch with their state level representatives in New York. New York Republicans don't buy into the rhetoric of hate, anti-choice, anti-immigrants, and anti-organized labor. Why? Because those people can't be written off here in NY as "special interests"...we are, in fact, their constituents....who VOTE and DONATE according to EVERYONE'S best interests. Too bad the national republicans have decided to divide the country rather than unite it.

    July 16, 2011 03:31 am at 3:31 am |
  13. 4merRepubCT

    "How is doing what the majority of the people want you to do any less than democracy in action? It would be different if we were talking about an issue that enjoyed only a sliver of support; that's clearly not the case," said Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda advocacy group

    Interesting interpretation of what elected leaders are supposed to do – listen to ALL of the people. Apparently the Repugs in D.C. are deaf.

    July 16, 2011 06:09 am at 6:09 am |
  14. Marie MD

    No, their votes were NOT bought. This is the 21st century. It's okay for anyone to love whomever they wish and want to marry them.
    Is this really that hard to understand? These conservatives think that everyone has to be like them. Give somebody money (whether it's from the koch brothers or murdoch) and your right wing stone age wishes will come true!

    July 16, 2011 06:41 am at 6:41 am |

    What's new? Wingnuts are bought and paid for everywhere you look.

    July 16, 2011 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  16. Clwyd

    Why shouldn't people who see republicans who can think for themselves not contribute to their campaign once they see they are no longer the party zombies that the republican party has trained! I wonder if my money got there yet!

    July 16, 2011 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  17. JXF

    I'm a little confused by the accusations equating votes with campaign coffers. This happens all the time on both sides of the political spectrum. Where's the outcry when a politician votes to repeal Health Care Reform and then receive a major donation from a healthcare organization? And what about Karl Rove's PAC, American Crossroads, donating thousands of dollars from unnamed donors, to politicians who vote favorably on Conservative issues? This is a very hypocritical accusation since it happens routinely on both sides of the aisle.

    July 16, 2011 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  18. diridi

    GOP drama flares up to get elected????? Not now....o.k, not bush era....o.k,

    July 16, 2011 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  19. American

    This is the good that can be accomplished & rewarded when both sides work together for the majority of all Americans, not just a political party.

    Washington take note–reasonable Americans want compromise, NOT political defaults...

    July 16, 2011 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  20. JohnBartlett

    Where's the article about all the money National Organization for Marriage and the Knights of Columbus have given to people to vote against same sex marriage? That amount far out weights this. Funny how I don't see much "criticism soaring" there.

    July 16, 2011 10:33 am at 10:33 am |