New York Daily News
Eric’s ‘racketeer’ donor
Flagged by watchdog, his $4G also exceeded legal limit
Mayoral contender and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams accepted $4,000 in campaign money from a man flagged by a city watchdog several years ago for being “convicted of a racketeering activity.”
Anthony Vulpis Jr. gave to Adams twice in the last two years — first, in the form of a $2,000 donation last July and, again, for the same amount last month, city campaign finance records show.
According to a 2014 decision from the city Business Integrity Commission, Vulpis Jr. is a convicted racketeer and the son of Anthony Vulpis Sr., who was convicted in 1990 for his role in an illegal landfill on Staten Island — an operation the commission called one of the “largest and most serious frauds involving environmental crime ever prosecuted in the United States.” In 1989, city investigators discovered body parts in a trailer parked in Brooklyn and registered to a company connected to Vulpis Sr.
Vulpis Jr. was indicted in September 2001 for selling cocaine and pleaded guilty to a drug sale charge two years later, according to the commission, which detailed his organized crime ties in its report.
On top of Adams accepting money from him, it appears Vulpis Jr.’s contributions also exceed Campaign Finance Board limits under the matching funds program.
Adams is an “Option A” participant in that program, which means total contributions are capped at $2,000. Vulpis Jr. doubled that limit, records show.
When asked about his donations to Adams, Vulpis defended them and declined to talk about his interactions with the Business Integrity Commission. “There’s nothing illegal about what I did,” he said. “I have nothing to say.”
Vulpis’ donations aren’t the only ones that appear to have run afoul of campaign finances rules, though. For donors with business before the city, the contribution limit is much lower — $400. Such contributions are not eligible for matching funds. Azriel Mandel, a managing member of Treetop Development, donated $1,000 to Adams’ campaign, campaign records show. A search of a city database shows Mandel is listed as doing business with the city through FDB Harlem Holdings LLC, which means he exceeded the limit by $600.
Michael Barry of Ironstate Development also appears in that database as having business with the city. Campaign finance records show he gave Adams $2,000 last month, exceeding the threshold by $1,600.
The Mack family appears to have donated generously, too — and to have exceeded donation limits also. William Mack and his son Richard — founders of the Mack Real Estate Group — both have business before the city, according to the city’s database. Both gave to Adams, but only William Mack appears to have exceeded the allowable limit with a $2,000 donation. According to a bio online, he is also the board chairman for the Mack-Cali Realty Corp.
Like Ironstate and Treetop, the Mack Real Estate Group has been blamed for contributing to rampant gentrification in Brooklyn and elsewhere — a state of affairs Adams has famously decried. When asked about the donations Tuesday, Adams campaign spokesman Evan Thies said the campaign intends to return all of the donations from Vulpis, as well as the cash that exceeds limits for donors doing business with the city.
“More than 8,700 individual contributors have given to the campaign — and although the campaign makes an effort to vet all those who give, some things will inevitably be missed,” he said. “The campaign complies completely and swiftly with all city rules and deadlines for returning funds, including contributions of those who do business with the city.”
Adams and his campaign have made similar promises before, but he has not returned campaign money from shady donors he vowed to give back earlier.
More than a year ago, Adams promised to refund $10,000 in campaign contributions from Avery Eisenreich, the owner of a nursing home chain, and four of his family members.
Eisenreich, the founder of Alaris Health, and his kin each donated $2,000 to Adam’s City Hall bid in 2019. A year later, Adams said he’d return the money after the Daily News revealed the nursing home chain violated federal labor law.
According to a 2018 National Labor Relations Board finding, four Alaris facilities broke the law when they wouldn’t reinstate striking workers after they offered to return to work. The union representing the workers, 1199 SEIU, endorsed Adams’ 2013 borough president run, but the union passed on him this year, opting instead to give its stamp of approval to Maya Wiley, Mayor de Blasio’s former legal counsel.
Last year, after The News reported on the Eisenreich donations, Thies said they’d be returned.
“Borough President Adams has fought side by side with organized labor his entire career, and is proud to have assisted SEIU 1199 in their past disputes with Alaris Health,” he said at the time.
“The campaign makes an effort to vet all contributions, but these were not checked thoroughly enough.”
Apparently, giving the money back hasn’t been a top priority, though. As of Tuesday, Adams still hadn’t returned the cash, city campaign finance records show.
On Tuesday, Thies told The News, once more, that the donations would be returned.