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Brooklyn Democratic leadership says progressive agenda is costing the party

September 10, 2019 Kelly Mena
Hon. Frank Seddio is a retired Surrogate’s Court judge and recently served as president of the Brooklyn Bar Association. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese
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The leader of one of the strongest Democratic party clubs in the nation is facing a financial shortfall due to a progressive push to turn down money from the real estate industry, leadership said at the club’s general meeting in Coney Island Monday night.

“We used to raise a lot more money from groups we no longer want to participate with, especially the real estate industry, quite frankly,” said Frank Seddio, chairperson of the Kings County Democratic Committee, at the meeting. “In 2013, we raised $800,000 in a year. In 2018, we only raised $400,000 — so you can pretty much see that our revenues have been cut in half.”

The Kings County Democratic Committee is the largest county party in the nation, and helps steer campaign support and resources to local and national Democratic campaigns.

Seddio was elected chairperson of the committee in September 2012. The group’s financial disclosure reports from July that year, filed with the state Board of Elections, showed their closing balance of $553,559.72. As of July 2019, the party’s cash on hand had decreased to a measly $32,833.95 according to public filings.

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The club is currently operating at a loss of more than $138,000, with legal expenses ($81,473.87) and payroll ($140,016.96) cutting into its diminished bank account.

Housing, tenants’ rights and a less welcoming approach to real estate development have become signature issues for newly elected Democrats in the City Council and Albany. State Sens. Julia Salazar and Zellnor Myrie, for example, defeated Democratic incumbents in part by assailing their connections to real estate. The progressive wing achieved historic rent reforms and tenant protections in Albany earlier this year, and an ever-growing field of candidates eyeing Democratic primaries are continuing to criticize the power of the real estate industry.

Seddio asked the wave of new, more progressive members to put their money where their mouths are and help the party get back into the black.

“We could use a lot more support from the people asking questions. I don’t mind someone asking me a question but it would certainly be nice for them to say, ‘By the way, I donated to the campaign or to the breakfast you had,'” Seddio told the Brooklyn Eagle before the vote. “I do have a problem with people who haven’t spent one minute assisting us in raising money, asking questions.”

In a unanimous vote, more than 300 members of the Kings County Democratic Committee passed a resolution aimed at creating financial transparency.

Brandon West of the New Kings Democrats opened up the floor at the Ford Amphitheater in Coney Island with a call to pass a proposal that will, among other things, force the party to produce quarterly written reports of the club’s income and expenses to be made available publicly online and to convene the club’s Finance Committee within the next 90 days.

“This resolution is about getting some basic level of understanding of what is going on with the party’s finances and hearing back on what the party is doing,” said West, whose political club spearheaded the move to pass the resolution.

The committee’s bylaws already require the group to publish quarterly reports, but despite that requirement, the reports posted online are currently annual, dating back to 2012. They would also require a more thorough breakdown of revenues and expenses, unlike the broad profit-and-loss sheets currently produced.

The effort to take a detailed look at the Brooklyn Democratic party’s finances comes as Seddio, the party’s boss, has recently come under intense scrutiny over his own financial dealings. Late last month, the Daily News reported that Seddio is in the midst of a four-year battle over a debt of $2.2 million to Golden Resources LLC, the parent company of the Golden Corral franchise.

The News also analyzed the party’s finances and found ballooning expenses nonexistent before Seddio’s leadership, including more than $300,000 owed to George Arzt Communications for public relations and more than $100,000 to Diana Carone, the wife of Seddio’s law partner and the party’s chief lawyer, Frank Carone.

“I don’t want to go too deep into Frank’s personal finances but we have no idea what is going on,” West said. “They say they have done the bare minimum, but they don’t even do the bare minimum by putting out their finances regularly.”

Seddio led the vote in favor of the resolution.

With the passage of the resolution, the club’s Finance Committee will have until Dec. 10 to convene while the party’s treasurer, Darlene Mealy, will be expected to update the party’s website and start adhering to quarterly reports.

As part of the resolution, the Finance Committee must provide detailed reports on the group’s expenditures and revenues, and make recommendations to get costs under control.

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  1. County Committee Member

    The party no longer gets real estate money because the chairman is no longer the Assembly Housing Committee chairman (as Vito Lopez was). And reformers don’t give money to the county party because the county party spends money on things like sending county committee members letters tricking them into proxying their votes to Seddio. If he wants real estate money he should get elected to a position where he can do developers favors. If he wants reformer money he should stop trying to disenfranchise them.