Thank you!

Dear Friends and Supporters:

Let me start off by thanking you for the tremendous support you showed me during this campaign. While in the end we did not get the results we wanted, we ran a positive, successful race that brought many of the challenges facing this state to the forefront.

After all of the votes are counted it looks like we achieved 45% of the vote for this district, which has never been done before. We were up against a 24 year incumbent who received over $1 million worth of support from the Republican Party and who issued multiple attacks in the mail and on the television that we simply did not have the resources to respond to. We were able to raise roughly $250,000 from supporters like you and our campaign was propelled not by a state party organization, but instead by local volunteers who wanted to see reform finally come to Albany.

I want to assure you I will continue to work on behalf of my constituents in Westchester County and will continue to be part of the discourse throughout the Hudson Valley.

Again, thank you for all your support.

Mike Kaplowitz

PS If you happen to come across any remaining campaign signs your help in taking them down would be greatly appreciated.

Our selection in the 40th state Senate District
(Original Publication: October 31, 2006)

The race for the 40th state Senate seat comes down to a vote for the status quo in Albany, or for a reformer who wants to end the system of pork barrel spending that benefits some legislators and districts at the expense of others.

Vincent Leibell III, a Republican also running on the Independence and Conservative lines, contends that the system works. Of course he does. It works for him. Leibell, of Patterson, has been in the state Legislature since 1983, first as an Assemblyman and, since 1995, as a senator. He is a senior Republican in a Republican-controlled body. As such, he has the clout to bring home a lot of money for favored projects - known as member items - to his district, which includes northern Westchester, all of Putnam and eastern Dutchess counties.

The spending is mostly used to fund worthy projects, like the $1 million grant split between Putnam Hospital Center in Carmel and Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt. But the money is very often doled out or announced close to election time, looking suspiciously like a cynical strategy for vote-getting. At other times, member items, or similar discretionary funds, make their way to questionable projects, like the $75,000 grant in 2004 that Leibell gave to the upstate college that his children attend. Leibell sits on an education subcommittee that routinely awards grants to colleges across the state; his family's close ties to the school only fuel criticism that such appropriations are too clubby and too dependent upon who you know rather than need.

Leibell didn't create the system in Albany, but he dismisses the notion that it is dysfunctional and brushes aside calls for change as mere politics. He said that changes made earlier, like a requirement that lawmakers be in their seats to vote and expanded time for debate, have already improved the Legislature's workings. As for the systemic inequity that allows those close to power - in the Senate, Majority Leader Joe Bruno; in the Assembly, Speaker Sheldon Silver - more money for member items, Leibell claims not to see it. "These funds are tough to get," Leibell told the Editorial Board. "Am I successful? You bet. That is what I do."

But we think that is not the way things should work. We endorse Michael Kaplowitz, who has made reforming Albany the centerpiece of his campaign. A five-term Westchester County legislator, Kaplowitz is running on the Democrat and Working Families lines in next week's vote. Kaplowitz, an attorney and financial planner from Somers, wants to cut funding for member items in half. He wants to see the money distributed equally to legislators across the state, and make it easier for the public to see which legislator gives how much to whom. He pledges to reform campaign-finance laws and end gifts from lobbyists to legislators.

He also has called for an independent commission to oversee the redistricting that follows every census - rather than let the major political parties battle it out, cut deals and basically ensure that district lines are drawn to keep incumbents in power. We have long admired Kaplowitz' intellect, thoughtful approach to problem-solving, and budget smarts as chair of the county board's Budget and Appropriations Committee. As former chair of the Environment Committee, he helped preserve 1,000 acres of open space. Leibell, an attorney, is a smart man who has done good things during his long tenure in Albany. But with property taxes in the Lower Hudson Valley the highest in the nation, we need state leadership that believes in, and is willing to work for, change. This year, something has to give, besides the taxpayer.

Eliot Spitzer Endorses Mike Kaplowitz for State Senate

"I need Mike Kaplowitz in Albany to help me bring a new era of reform to our state government. As Chairman of the Westchester County Legislature's Budget and Appropriations Committee, Mike has shown what it means to be a leader and a proactive, fiscally responsible legislator. He's the kind of reformer we need in the New York State Senate. I proudly endorse his candidacy and ask the voters of the 40th Senate District to join me in supporting him."

- Democratic candidate for Governor, Eliot Spitzer.

- Kaplowitz receives endorsement of WCLA-Choice Matters, Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the NY Chapter of the National Organization of Women (NOW) -

At a press conference today outside the Yorktown Courthouse, Westchester County Legislator and candidate for New York State Senate Mike Kaplowitz received key endorsements from the four major statewide women’s groups: WCLA-Choice Matters; NARAL; Planned Parenthood; and the New York chapter of the National Organization of Women (NOW).

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ENDORSEMENT: Kaplowitz brings fresh approach October 19, 2006

Voters frustrated with the lack of widespread reform in the state Legislature over the past two years can help foster change by electing Westchester's Michael Kaplowitz in the 40th Senate District. Kaplowitz, a Democrat, has the experience, energy and ideas to help usher in needed changes at the state Capitol.

Kaplowitz, a Somers resident, attorney and certified financial planner, has eight years as a West-chester County legislator. As chairman of the body's budget committee, he has first-hand experience trying to find the dollars to cover costly state mandates and the resulting impact it has on local property taxes. He could best help address local concerns along those lines and has specific plans to do so.

The Democrat faces a stiff challenge in taking on incumbent Sen. Vincent Leibell, a Republican from Patterson. Leibell has spent the past 12 years in the Senate and previously served another dozen years in the Assembly. The district includes much of the Harlem Valley in Dutchess County.

Kaplowitz supports a list of approaches to reforming Albany that includes pushing back the start of the state's fiscal year to July 1, reining in state debt and using budget surpluses to pay down existing debt.

Slashing discretionary state spending — often quietly approved with little or no transparency — is also a priority, Kaplowitz said. Funding for so-called "member items," commonly referred to as "pork," should be cut in half and every member of the Legislature should be given an equal amount to grant within his or her own district, he said. Currently, the majority parties in each house of the Legislature receive the lion's share of the member items.

Leibell has made a name for himself by sprinkling discretionary dollars to favored projects and programs around the district.

But Kaplowitz has rightly raised questions about Leibell steering state grants to a nonprofit he created to build affordable senior citizen housing in Putnam County. So far, the nonprofit has received several million dollars from the state but only has built one 24-unit apartment building in Brewster. Leibell has acknowledged having a direct hand in securing the funding, but said he hasn't benefited personally.

Leibell has come under fire, and rightfully so, for directing $75,000 to a private college, outside of the district, that his children attend. The money came out of another discretionary funding pot with little public oversight.

Leibell has helped craft and approve significant legislation to begin bringing out reform of the state's public authorities, which have operated largely outside public scrutiny. But these efforts haven't gone far enough.

Kaplowitz makes a strong case that he's committed to reforming the way the state does business and deserves the opportunity.

Kaplowitz Receives Endorsement of NY EdPAC

Westchester County Legislator Mike Kaplowitz, candidate for New York State Senate, received the endorsement of NY EdPAC this week. The endorsement was based on his “continued support of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, increased state education funding, reform of the state funding formula, and a system of accountability for schools with increased funding.”

NY EdPAC helps elect pro-public education candidates and holds them accountable for transforming the education system so that it serves every child. NY EdPAC is a bi-partisan New York State political committee associated with an education policy advocacy organization, the League of Education Voters. NY EdPAC’s mission is to focus attention on the roles legislators play in deciding public policies that shape education for New York school children.

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Two Additional Not-for-Profits Uncovered; Kaplowitz Campaign Releases a List of Member Item Dollars to 40th Senate District

- List shows a third of all tax dollars to the District went to Leibell’s foundations -

New information emerged this week showing that in addition to the Putnam Community Foundation and the Hudson Valley Trust, Leibell created another two foundations. The Putnam Community Foundation I, Inc. (Carmel) and the Putnam Community Foundation II, Inc. (Brewster) were created on the same day in May, 2001 and are both listed as “active” by the New York State Department of State. Neither of the two foundations has tax returns on file.

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Leibell continues to feel heat over funding scandals. Manna from Albany

(Original Publication: October 11, 2006)

Must be a tough election year in the 40th Senate District. You can tell from all the state pork-barrel money being brought home lately by state Sen. Vincent Leibell.

Leibell, R-Patterson, who was recently criticized for earmarking $75,000 in secret state funds to the upstate college that his children attend, is still reaching out to his constituents in Putnam and northern Westchester in a major way. In the last month he has doled out more than $1.6 million in taxpayer money to hometown projects, in a display of pork-slinging that should make all of Albany blush.

Click here for full story

Leibell grilled over use of funds

By Michael Risinit
The Journal News
(Original Publication: October 11, 2006)

CARMEL - Westchester County Legislator Michael Kaplowitz, a Democrat running for the state Senate, accused his opponent yesterday of siphoning off a third of all member-item dollars coming back to the 40th Senate District for a nonprofit organization that he founded.

Kaplowitz, a self-employed financial adviser, said state Sen. Vincent Leibell, R-Patterson, is "running a member-items Ponzi scheme" by directing pork-barrel money to his Putnam Community Foundation while shortchanging the district's taxpayers. Leibell, who yesterday said Kaplowitz was intentionally misleading voters with his numbers, helped start the foundation in 1999. Its purpose is to build affordable senior housing.

"It's one for you, two for the senator," said Kaplowitz, standing alongside Stoneleigh Avenue in Carmel, about a mile from the Putnam Hospital Center. "This is no longer hundreds or thousands of dollars. This is serious money."

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Kaplowitz Criticizes Leibell’s Putnam Community Foundation and the Millions in Taxpayer Dollars Directed to it by the Senator

- Standing at site of Putnam Hospital land deal, Kaplowitz demands the money be accounted for and returned to taxpayers-

Westchester County Legislator Mike Kaplowitz, candidate for NYS Senate, held a major press conference today criticizing Senator Leibell’s record of directing millions of tax dollars to a foundation he personally set up. The “Putnam Community Foundation” - a not-for-profit organization created by Leibell in 1999 for the purpose of providing affordable senior housing in Putnam County, has received millions from Albany member items and to date has only completed one project in the Town of Southeast.

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With Senate Finance Committee Member Jeff Klein at his Side, Kaplowitz Knocks Leibell for Fiscal Failures and Crippling Property Taxes – Introduces “10 Point Tax Relief Plan”; Senator Klein applauds Kaplowitz’ plan, praises his work as Westchester County Legislature’s Budget Committee chairman

Click here for the full story

Major Newspapers Criticize Leibell for Sending Tax Dollars Out of District and to Private College his Children Attend.

Click here for the New York Times editorial

Click here for the Journal News editorial

Click here for the Albany Times Union investigative report

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