Rice donor could become courtroom opponent

Jessica M. Karmasek Aug. 23, 2010, 12:59pm


ALBANY, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) - New York Attorney General-hopeful Kathleen Rice has received substantial contributions from a top executive at a company being sued by current state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office.

Rice, the Nassau County district attorney, received the maximum campaign contribution of $55,900 from Steven Napolitano, who heads a wholly-owned subsidiary of First American Corp., according to the New York Daily News.

First American and a spinoff company were sued in 2007 by Cuomo's office for using bankers who allegedly inflated the market value of homes, the Daily News said. Napolitano denied any wrongdoing.

According to the Daily News, Napolitano broke up his donations to Rice between her DA campaign account and her AG account.

On Jan. 10, while she was still considering joining the race, he donated $20,000 to Rice's DA account. Then, on May 3, Rice announced she was running for AG. She's one of five Democrats running for the spot.

A month later, Napolitano dumped another $25,000 into the DA account before donating another $10,900 to her AG account on July 8.

Rice has transferred more than $2.6 million from her DA campaign account to her AG fund, the Daily News reported.

Rice spokesman Eric Phillips described Napolitano as a Nassau resident who is a longtime donor.

"She's not the attorney general, so she's obviously not in any position to judge the circumstances surrounding his issue with the office, nor does he have any business with the Nassau DA's office," Phillips told the Daily News over the weekend.

Phillips indicated Rice would not return the money prior to the election and will decide how to proceed if she wins the campaign -- and the case against First America is still pending when she takes office.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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