Paul Manafort, the former Donald Trump campaign manager who was charged Monday on 12 money laundering and conspiracy charges, was a true D.C. insider who apparently stayed out of New York local politics – except for two campaign contributions, including one to an East Hampton town judge.
Manafort donated $100 in June 2013 to Steven Tekulsky, a candidate for East Hampton town justice.
“This is particularly shocking,” Tekulsky said when City & State told him of the contribution. “I don’t know the guy, I’ve never met him. I have no idea how or why he would have contributed to my campaign.”
Tekulsky said candidates for judgeships like his position are not allowed to solicit contributions, so the donation – given from a Newport Beach, California, address associated with an LLC run by Manafort’s two daughters – must have been gathered by his campaign committee.
Manafort owns a home in the town of Southampton, adjacent to East Hampton, where Tekulsky currently serves as judge.
Manafort has had a lucrative lobbying and consulting career in Washington, but a search through state and city campaign finance records dating back decades reveals no record of any New York candidates hiring Manafort for his services.
Dating back to at least 1989, Manafort has only made one other political contribution in New York – a $1,000 donation on Dec. 28, 2001, to then-New York City Public Advocate-elect Betsy Gotbaum’s transition committee.
“It was a long time ago,” Gotbaum told City & State. “I remember, that (political consultant) Hank Sheinkopf suggested I hire Manafort to do negative research – I think on me!” Gotbaum laughed, then added that she honestly doesn’t remember.
Sheinkopf seemed to recall better. “She was lucky enough to get a contribution from Paul (Manafort) because I asked Paul to make a contribution,” he said.
Sheinkopf, a political consultant who’s worked for politicians including Bill Clinton, Michael Bloomberg and Bill Thompson, said he has never worked with Manafort, but called him a “longtime acquaintance.” Sheinkopf said Gotbaum’s hazy memory of hiring Manafort for her 2001 campaign was “not accurate.”
“We did not hire Paul Manafort,” he said. “He was kind enough, at my request, to make a donation to Betsy Gotbaum. And I am grateful he did that.”
Why did he only donate to Gotbaum, out of the dozens of local campaigns Sheinkopf has worked on over the years?
Pushed for details, Sheinkopf was at a loss. “These are events that occurred almost 17 years ago,” he said. “There’s nothing else I can add in my memory bank that I haven’t given you.”
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