By MICHAEL GORMLEY
ALBANY, N.Y. – The lone Democratic senator who voted against legalizing gay marriage in New York accused New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg of buying the votes of key senators through his $10,300 donations to each of them.
Bloomberg’s spokesman confirmed the mayor contributed $10,300 to Republican Sens. James Alesi of Monroe County, Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, Roy McDonald of Saratoga County, and Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsie.
“If this is not a quid pro quo, please tell me what this is?” said Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., a Bronx minister. Diaz suggested the attorney general consider investigating, and challenged editorial boards that have been so critical of past practices by Senate Democrats “to declare that the Senate in Albany is still corrupt.”
Bloomberg wouldn’t respond to Diaz’s statement, and the senators had no immediate response. Lawmakers approved the bill June 24 and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law the next day.
“The mayor said he would support Senate Republicans who stood up-and he did,” said Bloomberg spokesman Micha Lasher.
The $10,300 contributions are the maximum allowed by law. Both sides of the issue have long been expected to spend massive amounts for lawmakers who supported the measure and against those who opposed it, which is most of the Senate’s Republican majority. The Buffalo News reported last week that Grisanti has so far received about $50,000 from supporters of gay marriage nationwide.
“The mayor is saying if you vote the way I want on what I think is a good public policy, then I will make sure you have enough money to forestall a primary,” said Barbara Bartoletti of the League of Women Voters. “That’s what money is in the political system: Protection.
“This is the way it works in Albany and until we have campaign finance reform, it is the way Albany is going to continue to work,” she said. “Sooner or later the public is going to have to understand that every issue involves this kind of activity and one person’s `buying of a vote’ is another person’s `making sure their view is seen and heard.”‘
Campaign finance would reduce the influence of money in political campaigns by greatly restricting the amount that a candidate could raise and spend.
The Republicans who voted for the gay marriage bill are expected to face potentially bigger losses in financial and voter support from their base in their conservative districts. The National Organization for Marriage is also pledging to spend $2 million to defeat the Republican senators in its continuing effort to overturn the law through a constitutional amendment voted on by New Yorkers.
The senators’ campaign filings were due Friday with the Board of Elections. Grisanti, who is in his first term, was the first senator to file early. He recorded his contribution from Bloomberg as received on July 8, 14 days after the historic vote in which the Republicans cast the deciding votes.
Alesi, McDonald and Saland had voted against gay marriage when it was defeated in 2009 by the Republicans, Diaz, and a few other Democrats. Alesi, Saland and McDonald said they voted for the measure this time after seeing growing public support for gay marriage and agonizing over the decision.