Assembly speaker, lawmaker helped fund accused Sandy scammer’s defense
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and a Brooklyn state Senator cut hefty checks to the campaign of Assemblywoman Pamela Harris after she found out she was under federal investigation — and she promptly drew on the funds to pay for high-priced defense lawyers, The Post has found.
Harris, who was arrested Tuesday on charges she stole taxpayer money meant for a Brooklyn kids’ charity and Hurricane Sandy relief — spending thousands on vacations, lingerie and her personal bills — is also accused of telling witnesses to lie to the FBI.
The Coney Island Democrat cut a check for $8,250 from her campaign account to law firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, which is representing her in the fraud case, back on July 12, 2016 — the very month a grand jury began investigating her.
Harris’ campaign did not pay the pricey law firm a dime before July 2016, records show.
Just two days later — as Harris was battling in a knock-down-drag-out primary — Heastie and Harris’ pal state Sen. Diane Savino conveniently infused her war chest with thousands of dollars from their own campaign accounts, Harris’ financial disclosures show.
Friends of Carl Heastie dropped in $2,000, and Savino for NY gave $4,400. It’s the first and only time either of their campaigns had given directly to Harris’, according to campaign finance records.
The white-shoe firm, which famously repped former Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver in his corruption trial, is costly — and the money was no doubt a boon for Harris, who had a scant $4,047.87 in her coffers once the election dust settled, a post-election financial disclosure shows.
“The Speaker gave to a dozen colleagues who were facing primaries or potential primaries,” Heastie spokesman Michael Whyland told The Post when asked about the expenditure from his own war chest.
Critics in the Assembly say campaign dollars should not go to criminal defense.
“I’ve always been outspoken and our conference has advanced that political campaign money should not be used for defense counsel when you’ve been charged with a criminal act,” Republican Minority Leader Brian Kolb told The Post.
Meanwhile, upstate GOP Assemblyman Brian Miller is calling for Harris to step down.
“Given the seriousness of the charges facing her, it is clear that Ms. Harris is unable to fairly and honestly represent the people of her district,” he wrote on Facebook Wednesday, along with a link to The Post’s coverage.
“I am calling for Ms. Harris to resign her office and the right to represent the people she defrauded and stole from, immediately. This must end.”
Harris is accused of systematically defrauding the City Council by splashing $35,000 meant for a non-profit she ran before taking office on personal vacations and paying off Victoria’s Secret tabs.
Prosecutors say she also bilked FEMA out of some $25,000 meant for displaced victims of Hurricane Sandy by pretending her home was too damaged to stay in and then billing the feds for rental assistance at a house where she never lived.
The accusations are particularly outrageous because Miller’s own district has been struggling to convince FEMA to step in with aid after floods ravaged Central New York last summer, the lawmaker said.
“It really doesn’t sit well with me and I’m sure it doesn’t sit well with a lot of residents,” he said.
Then, as a sitting assemblywoman, she allegedly instructed witnesses to lie to the FBI about the subterfuge, according to an 11-count indictment unsealed Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court.
Savino’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Harris refused to comment outside her Coney Island home Wednesday, and her lawyer Joel Cohen — who repped Silver in his corruption trial — did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Additional reporting by Kevin Sheehan